As mentioned in our recent post about the Tunisian dinar, a true mark of independence for a country is when it begins to issue its own currency. The same is true for Singapore and the Singapore dollar, nicknamed “Sing.” Read on for a brief history of the Singapore dollar and a quick look to how it stands as a form of currency today.
A Brief History
Like all other territories in southeast Asia under British rule in the early 20th century, Singapore used the Straits dollar as its form of currency. In 1939, however, the Straits dollar was replaced by the Malayan dollar when the newly-formed Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya began to issue currency. The Malay dollar continued to be the form of currency for a little over a decade, with the exception of the Japanese occuption in Singapore from 1942 to 1945, when the Japanese introduced their own currency to be circulated alongside the British Malay notes. In 1953, the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya was renamed the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya and British Borneo, prompting another change in currency, this time to the Malay and British Borneo dollar. Finally, in 1963, Singapore became independent, and in 1967 it issued its first coins and notes.
Even as a new currency, Singapore dollars were exchangeable at par with the Malaysian ringget until 1973. (They are still interchangeable with the Brunei dollar even today.) The initial value of the Singapore dollar was pegged with reference to the British pount, with S$60 equaling £7. In the early 1970s, however, the Singapore dollar became linked to the American dollar for a short time, and then its value became linked with a fixed and undisclosed trade-weighted basket of currencies after Singapore managed to diversify its trade links. Then in 1985, the dollar’s value was allowed to float within an uncontrolled bandwidth while being monitored by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore’s central bank and financial regulatory authority—a system which continues today.
The MAS’s monitoring of the Singaporan dollar is designed to protect it against imported inflation, as well as ensure that Singapore’s exports remain competitive. Foruntately for the Singapore dollar, the republic of Singapore has enjoyed a relatively robust economy in comparison to its struggling neighbors. Coins and notes are issued by the MAS, and their design and dimensions are determined by the republic’s Monetary Policy Committee along with government approval. As such, they remain a valid form of currency in both the public and private realms.
Singapore banknotes can be noted for their unique designs. Since its birth in 1967, the Singapore dollar has seen four different design series—the orchid series, the bird series, the ship series, and the current portrait series. This current series of banknotes features the face of Yusof bin Ishak, the first president of the Republic of Singapore, on the fronts of the notes and various images representing civic virtues on the backs. The coins, meanwhile, come in values of 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, and 1 dollar and are made of multi-ply plated steel. They feature designs of various iconic cultural images, such as the Merlion, the Port of Singapore, and the Esplanade. One cent coins stopped being issued in 2003.