The Cleanest City in the World

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SINGAPORE - This country was once a swampy land mass. But in the past four decades, this island nation in Southeast Asia has transformed itself into a major financial and trading center.

It's also one of the cleanest places in the world-- where you can be fined or arrested just for spitting, littering or selling chewing gum.

As CBN News discovered, Singaporeans don't mind the strict laws one bit.

You can't see them. But you know they're there. Undercover. Watching. Scanning the crowd.

"That's why we are very careful," says a resident of Singapore while eating her lunch.

Watching Your Every Move

Orchard Road is the most famous shopping street in Singapore. Tens of thousands of people mingle and shop up and down the boulevard each day.

Hidden in the crowd are some 400 plainclothes officers from the government's National Environment Agency. Their job: to pick out those who let things slip out of their hands.

CBN News' George Thomas spoke to Lawrence who works in the financial district in downtown Singapore.

Thomas: You like to smoke? You are smoking a cigarette right now?

Lawrence: Yes.

Thomas: What would happen if you threw that cigarette on the floor?

Lawrence: You'd be fined.

Thomas: How much would you be fined?

Lawrence: Maybe $500, maybe a thousand dollars. I'm not too sure.

Thomas: A thousand Singaporean dollars?

Lawrence: Yes.

Thomas: That's a lot of money. 

Lawrence: Yes.

One thousand Singaporean dollars is roughly about $700 in the U.S.

Cleanest City in the World

Singapore is famous for being the cleanest city in the world. There are many posters in buildings and parks telling people what they should and shouldn't do. Those who don't obey the rules will be fined or arrested.

Singapore is so strict that gum is a banned substance. In fact, those caught with it can be fined close to two hundred Dollars. Spitting, littering and jay-walking can also land you in big trouble.

Chewing gum is not forbidden in Singapore but bringing gum into the country in large amounts is illegal. Those caught selling it can be sent to jail. So many people like Martin, who lives on the east side of the island, just decide not to chew gum---period.

Thomas: Have you had gum before?

Martin: Never.

Thomas: Never?

Martin: Never.

Thomas: Never in your life? You've never had gum?

Martin: No.

Thomas: Do you want to have some gum?

Martin: No way.

Litterbugs Nabbed

The government reports that some 20,000 litterbugs were nabbed in 2007 -- 385 were repeat offenders. They had to pay higher fines and were ordered to pickup trash as part of a government-run rehabilitation program.

The folks that CBN News spoke to welcome these strict laws. They say it keeps Singapore a very clean, safe and orderly nation.

"It is not too controlling, you've got to learn good habits, right?" said a Ghopal another resident of the city. "So good habits start at home, right? So why not in the city."

And these habits start early. Children are taught at school and in their family, about how they should behave in society.

"There are many perceptions of Singapore that it's a very authoritarian country, where you can't speak or chew gum," said 19-year-old John, a student at one of the colleges in the city. "But I think that these are things that we just get used especially as we grow up in Singapore."

A Regional Powerhouse

The island of Singapore is not big; In fact, it's a tiny spot on the map wedged between Malaysia and Indonesia. Just over four million people live here.

Singapore has one of the strongest economies in Asia. It is the world's busiest port, is the third-largest oil refiner and a major financial and high-tech hub.

Singaporeans owe their rise to this man, Lee Kwan Yew, the country's first prime minister. Yew used these strict rules and regulations to transform the country into one of the richest, cleanest, safest and most efficient countries in the world.

A word of advice to those contemplating a trip to Singapore: make sure you know what the do's and don'ts are before going. Every year a large number of tourists are fined because they don't know about these strict rules.

*Original broadcast May 1, 2008.

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