July 11th, 2012
04:06 PM GMT
Editor’s note: Outlook is CNN's in-depth look at business climates around the world. To August 12, 2012, we’re focusing on Singapore.
Singapore (CNN ) – At less than 700 square kilometers and fewer than 6 million people, the city-state of Singapore may be one of Asia’s smallest countries, yet its economic influence far outstrips its size. Next week, CNN will be focusing on Singapore for a special week of coverage in this blog and on TV.
The country is a global hub for exports, a financial capital and an increasingly popular tourism destination. Its GDP per capita, nearly $50,000, is one of the world’s highest, on par with the most developed countries in Europe.
That’s quite an achievement for what was a poor, undeveloped British colony just 50 years ago. The per capita GDP in 1961 was just $1,136. Author Michael Schuman writes in his book “The Miracle,” that “Singapore’s transformation from down-and-out tropical outpost to vibrant metropolis of international stature is one of the great tales of the [Asian Economic] Miracle.”
Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong, is now Prime Minister, and governs a country that’s trying to diversify its economy beyond exports. Singapore has had great success developing as a center for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Last year, Singapore opened not one, but two major casino resorts – the Marina Bay Sand and Resorts World Sentosa. The city’s nightlife, once derided as mundane, is now picking up as well and money is being invested in developing new public spaces and artistic centers. Still some complain the censorship has restrained its ability to grow into a true artistic and cultural leader for the world.
Beyond the economics, Singapore is defined by its diversity. The city is composed of Malay, Chinese and Indian residents, with a large number of expatriates thrown in; it has four official languages. The much-celebrated cuisine blends all these influences into everything from excellent hawker food to cutting-edge five-star restaurants.
CNN’s Outlook series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we feature. However CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reporting.