Monday, 6 February 2017

Singaporeans must stay united, understand global challenges

PM Lee, Chan Chun Sing say opportunities to move ahead remain despite uncertainties
By Charissa Yong, The Sunday Times, 5 Feb 2017

The uncertain global environment and how Singapore and its people should respond to challenges were key themes at two Chinese New Year dinners last night.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Ang Mo Kio GRC that there are both challenges and opportunities for Singapore in this climate, as he gave an update on relations with the region and the wider world.

These opportunities will help the country and its people move ahead, do better and prosper in an uncertain world, he said.

"But to do that, we have to stay united, understand what is important to Singapore as we manage our foreign relations and we find new paths ahead together."

The good news is that Singapore's relations with its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia are stable, with goodwill and a desire to work together and deepen ties, he added.

Relations with the United States and China have also grown steadily over the years, and amid a changing mood in the US under a new administration, he hopes Singapore continues to develop its friendship and cooperation with both.

In Tanjong Pagar GRC, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said Singapore and its people must have a keen eye on global trends, understand them, and figure out how to best work with others.

Amid a shifting global balance of power and economic disruption, Singapore can stay afloat and succeed if it sticks to a few guiding principles, he said: Be pro-Singapore, believe in the rule of international law and freedom of navigation over air and sea, maximise partnerships with countries big and small.

Alluding to developments like Britain's vote to leave the European Union and the election of US President Donald Trump, Mr Chan said Singaporeans must understand why people in other countries voted the way they did.

One lesson is the importance of sharing the fruits of economic growth with those who are less successful.

"When a country grows, if there are not sufficient economic opportunities for the middle class and the next generation, there will be trouble," he said.

Singapore also needs to watch global trends "and read the tides carefully", he added. "Whenever the huge waves buffet our small little boat, we need to stay calm and collected and very clear-eyed."

Mr Chan said Singapore is "neither pro-country A nor anti-country A. We are just pro-Singapore."

On the importance of freedom to navigate in the air and sea, he said: "If I stay in an HDB flat, I would like to be assured that I and my family can walk in and out of our flat... without fear of harassment."

The nation must also be successful so it remains relevant to the rest of the world and can enter win-win partnerships with others.

"Once in a while, there will be challenges between us and other countries," he said. "What remains unchanged is for us to be very clear-eyed about our interests and their(s). Stay in it for the long haul, remain open, remain inclusive."

Singapore has backed China's development and integration into the global system, as well as the US' continued engagement in this part of the world, Mr Chan noted.

"We want to be friends with both. The Pacific Ocean is big enough for us to find common ground, to work on common projects together," he added.

Singapore enjoys good relations with neighbours, US and China, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 5 Feb 2017

While there may be uncertainty around the world, the good news is that Singapore enjoys good, stable relations with its neighbours, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking to constituents at a Chinese New Year dinner yesterday, Mr Lee gave an overview of ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as the United States and China.

Singapore has good relations with all and hopes to deepen cooperation with its partners, he said.

Citing several joint projects Singapore is working on with its closest neighbours, Mr Lee said they "show that the two sides want to cooperate, would like to work together, and there's goodwill and the desire to deepen the relationship".

He noted that when he visited Semarang with Indonesian President Joko Widodo last year, they opened the Kendal Industrial Park. Mr Lee said there were more opportunities there for Singaporeans, as Mr Joko had welcomed more investments from Singapore.

With Malaysia, Singapore is working on major projects such as the high-speed rail and the Johor Baru-Singapore rapid transit system, which will make it more convenient for people to travel between both countries, said Mr Lee.

Casting his eye farther afield, he said the election of President Donald Trump in the US was "a very important change".

"It shows that something fundamental has changed in the US and also, therefore, in the world," he said.

He noted the mood among some segments of American voters was different from before, as they were not happy with the status quo and wanted change. "They want somebody to express their frustration because their lives haven't improved, and so they elected the Republicans, and Donald Trump and his team in order to express this frustration and try to change things, hopefully, for them, for the better."

Noting the US had been a good partner for many years, he said Singapore would have to watch carefully what policies the new US administration pursues domestically and internationally.

The US is an "important power in the region, which contributes to peace and stability in Asia", and Mr Lee hopes this continues "even with a different administration and even with a different mood in the US". "If the US can continue to play this role and continue to cooperate with Singapore and with other countries, it's good for Singapore, and it's also good for the US and for the world," he said.

Singapore also pursues close relations with China, he said. "We have good relations with China. It's grown steadily over the years."

Both countries are cooperating on joint projects such as Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-city and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, the latest government-to-government project. The Chinese government mooted the latest initiative and approached Singapore, which then put up a proposal for it after careful studies, Mr Lee noted.

Both sides are discussing new areas of cooperation, such as how Singapore can support China's One Belt, One Road initiative, he said.

The governments also meet regularly through the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting, the highest-level forum between China and Singapore. The next JCBC meeting will take place in Beijing at the end of this month.

"It's an important meeting for our cooperation because it's the top level of the structure," he said, pointing to the JCBC being co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. "Both sides see value in the relationship and we hope to continue to develop our friendship with China to the mutual benefit of both countries," he said.

Three things must be done to deal with challenges: Chan Chun Sing
By Charissa Yong, The Sunday Times, 5 Feb 2017

Singapore is in a good position to deal with challenges such as rapid advances in technology that disrupt business models, but must stay open and innovative to overcome global uncertainties, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and labour chief Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Singapore has a few things going for it: a good education and training system, and a cohesive relationship between the Government, businesses and people, he said.

But three things must be done going forward, said Mr Chan, who is deputy chairman of the Committee on the Future Economy. Its report on long-term strategies for Singapore's economy to do well is due in the next fortnight.

First, businesses must reduce their need for manpower and go for quality growth based on innovation, he urged. "Our ability to take in any more foreign manpower will depend on our ability to integrate them into our social system," he said at a Chinese New Year dinner for residents of Tanjong Pagar GRC, where he is an MP, and Radin Mas.

Second, firms should expand beyond Singapore. Mr Chan said Singaporeans must be prepared to go beyond the country's shores, and the education and training system must be geared towards helping young people do so.

Finally, Singapore has to create an environment that enables innovation. Regulations should "not just prevent bad things from happening", but enable Singapore to have a more pro-business and pro-worker environment. This would allow businesses to be started easier and faster. Said the minister: "We must remain open and connected with the rest of the world. Open to ideas, open to business opportunities beyond our shores, connected to people and connected to ideas."

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