Less than 5% of Singapore's land is used for agriculture. Tropical fruits, orchids, and vegetables are intensively cultivated; rubber and copra are produced; and poultry, hogs, and tropical fish are raised. There are no exploitable natural resources in the country. Its power is produced by thermoelectric plants, and water is supplied by a number of reservoirs. Singapore has a fine rapid transit system, good roads, a railroad that crosses the island, and a causeway carrying road and rail traffic to the mainland.
Singapore's workforce is employed primarily in manufacturing, in the service industries, and in commerce, with a negligible proportion engaged in agriculture. The country has become a major center of international finance in recent decades. The economy slowed as a result of the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98 and the 2001 recession, but unemployment and inflation remained low. The increasing importance of China in manufacturing and finance, however, is seen as a threat to Singapore's future economic growth, and the nation has sought to develop its tourism industry (including casino gambling).
Singapore is one of the world's greatest commercial centers, with a large, modern port. Commerce has historically been the chief source of income. For many years the largest importer in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a free port and an entrepôt that reexports more than half of what it imports, notably rubber, petroleum, textiles, timber, and tin. It also exports locally manufactured goods such as computers and telecommunications equipment, petroleum products, oil drilling equipment, plastics, rubber products, and processed food and beverages. The country imports most of its food.
Singapore's chief trading partners are Malaysia, the United States, China, Japan, and Indonesia. With more than 300 factories and deepwater wharves, the Jurong Industrial Estate is Southeast Asia's largest industrial complex. It and the Changi International Airport are built largely on infill of marsh and shallow waters of the straits. The country has a number of large petroleum storage and refining facilities, and Keppel Harbor is one of the world's largest container-handling facilities. Development of the former British naval base at Sembawang on the Johore Strait as a commercial shipyard helped to enhance Singapore's status as a major center for shipbuilding and repairs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.