Yang Amat Berhormat Datuk Patinggi Dr Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Johari, Chief Minister of Sarawak
1. A very good afternoon to all of you and a special welcome to all our friends from Sarawak to Singapore. Singapore and Malaysia have a very special relationship –we have always been like brothers. But beyond Malaysia in general, Singapore together with Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei also have a very special relationship. Today, it is our honour and pleasure to not only renew this relationship but to strengthen this relationship. Today, I am very happy to be here to see the fruition of the Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office in Singapore (STATOS). It is a dream come true for many of us in this hall.
2. Ever since I took over the trade and industry portfolio, I have always asked my team to work very hard to see how we can strengthen our economic trade and tourism links with Sarawak and Sabah. And Sarawak has accepted our invitation to set up the STATOS. We do not see this as an end. In fact, we see this as the start of an even stronger relationship between Singapore and Sarawak. And I think if any one of us were to walk outside and see the event exhibition, we would quickly realise how great the potential, how much more there is for us to do between Singapore and Sarawak. Indeed, just over the conversations we had during lunch earlier, there are many ideas we can follow up on together, between Singapore and Sarawak.
3. I will just list some, but they are not exhaustive. Tourism – tourism is a great area for us to work on together. For many Singaporeans in this hall and beyond, anywhere within a two-hour flight would be considered a weekend getaway, and Kuching is definitely within a two-hour flight. We hope to be able to step up the number of flights between Singapore and Kuching, and to other parts of Sarawak as well. And as the world progresses, the demand for eco-tourism is growing tremendously; the demand for cruise tourism is also growing tremendously. So there are at least two, three areas just in the area of tourism that we can work on together.
4. Second, you look at the natural products from Sarawak. There is tremendous potential for us to work with Sarawak and to welcome Sarawak to use Singapore as a platform not just for the sales in Singapore but for the sales to the rest of the region and the world. In particular, as Singapore seeks to diversify our supply chains, sources of food, vegetables and so forth, there is tremendous potential for us to tap the potential that is available in Sarawak. And of course, Sarawak has many other natural products, natural resources, minerals. I hope more Singapore companies will be able to link up with STATOS so that we can continue to promote trade. So these are just some of the examples of what we can do together, and I am sure there are many more in the areas of energy and so forth.
5. Today, it is also significant that as we step up this relationship, it is against a backdrop where many countries are pushing back against trade and integration. But today, for all of us here, it is also a statement of our intent to not let all the uncertainties in the world distract us. Instead, we are here united, to make sure that despite the many uncertainties in the world, we can continue to strengthen our ties. That working together in the region can act as a buffer against the uncertainties of the world. At the World Trade Organization (WTO) system, at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions, we are all working to integrate more countries together. And that is good for the world, good for all of us because we can then optimise our production, our supply chains, at the global and regional levels. But while we do that, we must never forget our links at the regional level – our state-to-state links, our bilateral links, our company-to-company links and so forth. And the greatest essence for us to bring together all these links will be people-to-people. I was just told, to my surprise, by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, that there are at least 30,000 people from Sarawak working in Singapore every day. Many people from Sarawak come to work in Singapore, to study in Singapore. All business relations start from the basis of trust and all trust starts from the basis of knowing each other, not just as business partners, but as friends if not as family.
6. And that is why I am confident with the growing family ties and business links, we will continue to grow from strength to strength. I am confident that the trade between Sarawak and Singapore will continue to grow from strength to strength and my hope is that the next time the Chief Minister comes to visit us, his staff in the office will be able to tell him how much more we have been able to do together, in so many more areas.
7. So I thank you all. Thank you Chief Minister for your support. We welcome you and your delegation and we hope to see our relationship grow from strength to strength.