Singapore is one of the world's major commercial hubs Paul Reiffer

Singapore is commemorating 50 years since it became an independent state.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to witness an extravagant parade being held to mark the milestone that will include fireworks and a flypast by fighter jets.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state's residents can take pride in their accomplishments over the past 50 years.

The former British colony became a sovereign state on 9 August 1965 after it was expelled by the Federation of Malaya amid social unrest and ideological differences.

Once considered a regional backwater, the former British colony has transformed into a rich, high-tech city state with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

Foreign dignitaries attending the festivities include Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak and New Zealand PM John Key.

'Must press on'

"At 50 years, as we stand at a high base camp, we look back and marvel how far we have come," Lee said in a televised speech on the eve of the national day, according to Reuters.

"From this base camp, we can also look forward to new peaks ahead.

"The journey ahead is uncharted. But we must press on, because we aspire to do better for ourselves and our children."

A recording of Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, reading the document that announced the island's split from Malaya was played on radio and television channels at 9am local time (1am GMT).

One 17-year-old student, Yang Jie Ling, told Reuters: "It's only 50 years for a small nation like us, so we have achieved so much.

"It's a year that Singaporeans will want to remember forever."