Saturday 29 March 2014

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong receives Freedom of the City of London and dedicates award to Singaporeans

PM's 'very good day' in London
By Zuraidah Ibrahim, The Straits Times, 29 Mar 2014

IT WAS a city Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first visited at age 17, and 45 years later, the city of London made him one of its own, presenting him with the honour of being a "freeman" with its Freedom of the City award.

At an elegant ceremony comprising top business leaders, financiers and academics, Mr Lee was given a scroll of the award by the Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf.

She called on him to see Mansion House, the official office of the city of London, as his "home away from home" where he would always be welcomed as a friend.

The occasion was especially meaningful because it was in the same room 32 years ago that then-PM Lee Kuan Yew was accorded the same honour.

Ms Woolf harked to the historical and close ties between Singapore and Britain. Just as in the speech honouring the elder Mr Lee then, Ms Woolf recalled the special relationship Mr Lee had in having studied at Cambridge, where some of the city's freemen were from, and some of Britain's brightest minds hailed from.

She also reminded the audience, which included Mr Lee's former tutors from Cambridge, that he was a Cambridge "wrangler" - someone with first-class honours in mathematics in two, instead of the usual three years.

When the elder Mr Lee received the award, then lord mayor Sir Christopher Leaver, remarked that "as a young man, you chose as your theme and slogan, one word "Merdeka", which can be interpreted in English as "Freedom". He spoke of Mr Lee's efforts to transform a young nation.

He also said London held many happy memories for him. Mr Lee brought smiles all round during his speech when he said that when he first visited, the city "was the capital of cool" in the swinging sixties, but he stayed "sober" nonetheless and enjoyed the plays and concerts, and visiting museums and the "greatest bookshop in the world - Foyles".

Indeed, on Thursday, despite a packed schedule of a luncheon with businessmen and talks at 10 Downing Street with his counterpart David Cameron, he squeezed in a visit to the British Museum to catch a special Vikings exhibition. As he said in his Facebook post: "All in all, a very good day."

Yesterday was another packed day as he toured London on a Routemaster, a bus with a "hop-on, hop-off" rear open platform. It is owned by Metroline, a ComfortDelgro subsidiary. During the ride, he quizzed Metroline chief executive Jaspal Singh on the revenue model and the fleet.

The former Singapore government official said Metroline has thrived partly because of certainty in the regulatory framework where operators are paid to run routes while the regulator collects fares. "We work closely with the regulator and there is trust, mutual respect and fairness," he said.


I am deeply honoured and yet humbled. I would like to dedicate this award to the people of Singapore who have worked so hard to build our nation. Special credit must go to our pioneer generation, who dreamt of a far better Singapore when we became independent, and took us a long way along the journey there. This award also reflects the long and close friendship between London and Singapore and between our peoples.

PM Lee: Singapore must balance identity and openness
He also stresses need for solidarity amid drive to become global city
By Zuraidah Ibrahim, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2014

SINGAPORE has learnt from London in its drive to become a global city, but as a city state with no hinterland, it also has to be sensitive to national identity and social solidarity, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

In a speech comparing the two cities, he noted that, like the British capital, the Republic is striving to be a global city, offering a high-quality living and cultural environment at the crossroads of the East and West.

"Like London, we too must manage the stresses and strains of being a global city," he said.

"But unlike London, we have no larger country which is our hinterland. Our city is our country. Hence, we must get the balance just right - between national identity and cosmopolitan openness, between free market competition and social solidarity," he said.

These remarks were in a speech he was due to deliver here last evening (early this morning in Singapore) at a ceremony in which he received the Freedom of the City award from London's Lord Mayor, Ms Fiona Woolf.

PM Lee was given the honour for his contributions to Singapore. His father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, received the award in 1982.

The title of his speech - A Tale Of Two Cities - was a nod to the book of the same name by Charles Dickens, one of London's greatest literary icons. Mr Lee paid tribute to the city's cultural heritage, which he first experienced in 1969 at the age of 17. "It was the swinging sixties and London was the capital of cool," he said.

He had a more "sober time" enjoying its plays, concerts, museums and art galleries and "spending hours browsing in the greatest bookshop in the world - Foyles".

While studying at Cambridge, he visited the city regularly as his late first wife Ming Yang was then a medical student at Middlesex Hospital. "Hence, London in the early 1970s held many happy memories for me," he said, while acknowledging that those were difficult years for Britain as it adjusted to its post-empire status.

He noted that with Britain's revival under prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her successors, London did especially well, attracting talent and capital from many countries. "London was cool again," said Mr Lee.

It responded faster than others to deregulate and liberalise its financial services to become a centre for world finance.

Singapore emulated its role in Europe, starting the Asian dollar market to service the region. As that strategy reached its limits by the late 1990s, it opened up its markets and accepted more risks, again using London as its model. But, he said: "We did not go as far as London did in letting go, which in hindsight was just as well."

Today, London is not just a financial hub, but also a global city for talent, innovation and culture. But both cities are at a crossroads, he said. London is trying to put things right after the global financial crisis and must find a new model "to remain a financial hub while avoiding the excesses of the past". Singapore too is making its way forward, pursuing economic growth based on productivity and innovation to uplift its people's lives, he said.

"We are sparing no effort to educate Singaporeans, both the young and those already working. We are addressing growing social needs, while maintaining our drive and elan," he said. "We strive to stay cohesive and united as we continue pursuing excellence, so that we can stay up there with London and other top cities in the world."

Mr Lee dedicated his Freedom award to Singaporeans who "have worked so hard to build our nation", giving special credit to the pioneer generation. The dinner was to be attended by London's senior business leaders, and Mr Lee's former Cambridge tutors. Earlier in the day, Mr Lee met Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. He is to give a talk at Chatham House today.

Temasek opens London office
By Zuraidah Ibrahim, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2014

Temasek has set up a European office in London to help with its forays into the continent and beyond - the Middle East and Africa.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who opened the office last Friday, said it reflects Temasek's confidence in opportunities in Europe, and Africa's long-term potential.

"Temasek's interests are part of Singapore's broader relations with these continents," he added.

Europe is one of Singapore's biggest markets and euro zone countries have stabilised their economies after the past few difficult years, raising their growth potential. Mr Lee noted that Singapore has negotiated the European

Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), "a win-win proposition" as it helps European and Asian companies use the Republic as a gateway to expand into each other's continents.

The pact is being ratified and requires the support of the European Parliament and all 28 European Union (EU) member countries.

"Please lend your weight and persuasive powers to encourage all European governments to support and ratify the EUSFTA," Mr Lee told the gathering of investment bankers and corporate chieftains at the Millennium Mayfair hotel.

On Africa, he noted that many countries, such as Botswana and Rwanda, are doing well and Singapore's ties with the region are growing rapidly.

Mr Lee also noted that the financial hub of London was a natural choice for Temasek's latest office.

Singapore's ties with Britain are "longstanding and substantial", he added.

Temasek Holdings chairman Lim Boon Heng said the Singapore investment company continues to see many opportunities as the global economy rebalances.

Temasek's investment portfolio in Europe includes Standard Chartered and Spanish oil and gas giant Repsol.

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