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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the PRC Embassy's Macao Reception in Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Macao's Return to PRC

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the PRC Embassy's Macao Reception in Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Macao's Return to PRC

His Excellency Hong Xiaoyong, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Singapore 

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening. 

1 I am delighted to join you this evening to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of Macao to China. It is a significant milestone for both China and Macao, and I would like to convey the Singapore Government’s warmest congratulations.

2 Under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, Macao has enjoyed stability and prosperity over the past twenty years. Macao’s GDP has increased ninefold from 1999 to 2018 while its foreign reserves grew by more than sixfold. Macao’s unemployment rate has also dropped from 6.3% in 1999 to 1.8% in 2018. That is one of the lowest in the world.

3 The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiative continues the positive trend of closer integration between Macao and the Mainland. Macao is an integral part of GBA, having been designated one of the four Core Cities  in China’s Outline Development Plan for the GBA that was released in February this year. Notably, the inauguration of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge – the world’s longest sea crossing and a key infrastructure project under the GBA – in October 2018 has further enhanced Macao’s status as a world-class tourism and leisure centre and cemented its linkages to the wider market in the Mainland. I took a ride on the bridge earlier this year and I must say it is very impressive. For those of you who have never been on the bridge before, take a look at the picture on display and I hope you find the time to travel on the bridge to experience it for yourself. 

4 Macao’s enhanced integration with the Mainland under the GBA has also benefitted Mainland China. As host of four State Key Laboratories focussing on research in traditional Chinese medicine, microelectronics, internet of things (IoT) and planetary science, Macao plays an integral role in the establishment of an international science and technology innovation centre in the GBA. Furthermore, Macao’s rich cultural heritage and its development as a Renminbi clearing centre for Portuguese-speaking countries will put it in good stead to become a commercial and trade cooperation service platform linking China and the Lusophone-speaking communities.

5 Let me now touch on Singapore’s relations with Macao. Singapore and Macao enjoy close relations, particularly in the areas of healthcare, tourism, and civil service training. Let me share a little bit more. 

6 Later this month, Minister for Health Mr Gan Kim Yong and Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Dr Alexis Tam will renew our Memorandum of Understanding on healthcare cooperation, first signed by then-Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Mr Chui Sai On in 2005. In terms of tourist numbers, close to 150,000 Singaporeans visited Macao in 2018 only. On the economic front, Singaporean companies such as the Banyan Tree, Ascott and Eu Yan Seng, all household names here, have set up businesses in Macao. Our companies could also capitalise on the new business opportunities brought about by the GBA to further our commercial ties. Since 2000, Singapore and Macao have cooperated closely on civil service training. This October, our Civil Service College (CSC) hosted a delegation from the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Macao for a study visit. So far, more than 3,500 civil servants from Macao have participated in CSC’s training programmes. We expect that with the deepening of ties, we will see more of such mutual exchanges and people-to-people interactions. 

7 In two days, Macao will witness the inauguration of its third Chief Executive Mr Ho Iat Seng. There is every reason to be confident that the Central and Macao SAR Government will continue to chart a successful course for Macao, which will also benefit our region here in Southeast Asia.

8 On this note, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations and best wishes to China and Macao. Ambassador Hong, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to now propose a toast to even greater prosperity for China and Macao in the coming years. Congratulations once again! 

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