The destinations of the study tour 2015 will be Singapore and Malaysia. The countries differ a lot and both countries have a great diversity regarding culture as well as technology. One thing they do have in common is the strong economic relationship with the Netherlands, which has played an important role for centuries. In particular this economic relationship makes the high tech industry accessible and inspiring for the mechanical engineering students.

Singapore exists of 63 islands and is the smallest country of South-East Asia. After Singapore was colonized several times, among others by the Malaysians and the British, it became independent in 1965. Since the British colonization in 1942, Singapore evolved from a third-world-country into one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Since the independence, the focus on import substitution switched to the export-based industrial growth, realized by selective control of the capital. The high labor costs in the late seventies caused the technological upgrading of the manufacturing which offers great investment advantages and opportunities. Nowadays, Singapore is considered to be a highly developed city-state and an international center for industry and trade. The enormous port of Singapore is of great importance to the economy, since there are little natural resources. The port is situated at one of the busiest trade routes from East to West and is considered to be the world’s biggest player in transshipment. Except for the trade, also the processing industry is very important. The most important branches are the petroleum industry, the electronic industry, chemical industry and maritime industry. Big technology companies, research institutions and universities are situated in Singapore.

The Malay Peninsula extends completely along the Strait of Malacca, one of the most economically and politically important ship-routing in the world. The Malay used to control the Straits of Malacca, but in 1511 the Portuguese took over and later also the Dutch, British and Japanese. The British brought in Chinese and Indians to work in the mines and plantations. Thereby Malay became the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world. Upon the establishment of Malaysia in 1963, the government began implementing economic five-year plans. Malaysia was able to transform from an agriculture and mining nation into a middle-income country with a multi-sector economy based on services and manufacturing. Nowadays, Malaysia is one of the world’s largest exporters of semiconductor components and devices, electrical goods, solar panels, and information and communication technology products.

Due to the foreign influences in both Singapore and Malaysia, there is a great diversity of ethnicity, religion and language. Both populations exist in particular of Chinese, autochthonous Malay and Indian. In Singapore, with one third of the population the largest religion is the Buddhism, followed by the Christianity, the Islam and the Taoism. In Malaysia, the official religion is the Islam, but also the Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Chinese religions such as the Confucianism and Taoism are well represented. However the culture of Malaysia is more diverse then the Singaporean culture, they both differ a lot from the Western culture.

Both Singapore and Malaysia have been colonized several times. Since their independence, they have economically developed very fast due to ideal location and great politics. The historically long economic relationship with the Dutch makes the high tech industry nowadays accessible and inspiring for the Dutch mechanical engineering students. It will be very exciting to experience how Singapore and Malaysia have evolved and how they will be trying to maintain their economic power and innovative character.

Mirte van Weert
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