Mr T V Narendran,
All our friends from the CII,
All of you who are joining us from wherever in India, Singapore, and elsewhere.
A very good morning from Singapore.
1. First, thank you for inviting me to be a part of the CII Partnership Summit. The theme of “Partnering for Building a New World: Growth, Competitiveness, Sustainability, Technology”, is quite apt, especially because it comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which as we all know has disrupted lives and livelihoods, jobs and business models.
2. As the world endeavours to recover from the pandemic and deals with new variants such as Omicron, this summit, I think, can help to chart the way forward as we strive to build a global economy that is more responsive to changing economic realities and the evolving needs of our people. So, I thought I’ll take the next 5-10 minutes to outline some thoughts especially with respect to how bilateral ties between Singapore and India has evolved and can evolve, and I’m also looking forward to the exchange of views during the Q&A.
SINGAPORE REMAINS COMMITTED TO BILATERAL TIES
3. So as we all know, Singapore and India share a deep and multi-faceted relationship between our governments, our businesses and our people certainly. In our 56 years of bilateral relations, we have steadfastly deepened our trade relations and successfully collaborated on numerous projects. And importantly, we have persevered in this effort through these past two difficult years.
4. We continued regular conversations virtually between our governments and businesses, including through platforms like last and this year’s Partnership Summit. As you’ve heard from Mr Banerjee and Mr Narendran, we’re basically continuing to engage with CII and business groups in India virtually, and now we hope that we can start having more physical interactions. Through our close collaboration, we ensured the continuous flow of essential supplies, such as rice and medical supplies, between our two countries. Most recently, we have worked towards the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates of our two countries and the establishment of a Vaccinated Travel Lane which will allow connections between families and businesses to resume. I’m very glad that we’re already seeing an uptake in the travel between India and Singapore, and this is only possible because of the close cooperation between the governments on both sides.
5. In Singapore, our companies continue to recognise the potential of the Indian market and remain committed to invest in India.
a. A case in point is Singapore’s e-commerce company, Shopee. Since the commencement of Shopee’s operations in India a few months ago, it has employed close to 300 staff and onboarded over 20,000 local sellers in India. This further strengthens the economic and people-to-people links between our two countries.
b. Another company, Blue Planet, which is an end-to-end sustainable waste management company, provides technologies and services across the entire life cycle of waste management. They have over 15 projects throughout India and were recently awarded one to convert a massive 200-acre landfill in Chennai into a “green belt”. The project, when completed, will sort, recycle, or upcycle up to 3.5 million tonnes of waste that have been dumped over three decades.
6. As we take stock of our partnerships and look to the future, there are other pressing problems demand our attention. The climate crisis is an existential threat. The pandemic has underscored the importance of establishing resilient global supply chains, and the need for innovation and accelerated digital adoption.
7. I would like to share three areas in which India and Singapore can forge enduring partnerships in the coming years – the areas being Sustainability, the Digital Economy and Connectivity. Let me elaborate on each in turn.
8. First, sustainability. Both India and Singapore have recognized the danger of the climate crisis and made national commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at COP26 India’s commitment to achieve net-zero by 2070, and he also highlighted the importance of financing, and affordable climate technologies.
9. Though we are a small island nation with limited renewable energy potential, Singapore is also committed to global climate action. In February this year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan. It lays out ambitious and concrete targets for the next ten years to advance our national sustainable development agenda. Singapore companies have also participated in India’s sustainability story, across different facets such as renewable energy, smart city development and water management.
a. Sembcorp’s recent 180MW wind power project in Karnataka and the 400MW solar power project in Rajasthan – which was awarded in January this year – are testament to their competitiveness, and commitment to renewables. Sembcorp’s renewable energy capacity in India is now more than 2.3GW, representing a significant part of their global portfolio.
10. In the next phase of development, Singapore and India can cooperate on various upstream initiatives to accelerate research and development of low-carbon technology solutions. India’s recently announced National Hydrogen Mission offers much scope for mutually beneficial collaboration between our businesses, research institutes and governments.
11. We can also jointly avail financing for green infrastructure and initiatives. Public capital alone is insufficient to meet the immense financing needs of the transition to a sustainable economy. To mobilise the required private funding, our two countries can cooperate to deepen Asia-focused sustainable financial expertise, co-create solutions to spur green finance adoption, and integrate sustainability considerations into financing decisions.
12. The second area is the Digital Economy, which holds tremendous potential. India’s digital economy is expected to be worth a quite staggering US$1 trillion by 2027, and Southeast Asia’s is expected to exceed US$360 billion by 2025.
a. Digital technologies have democratised economies, empowering SMEs and people across the globe. Hence, to enhance access to digital opportunities, it is vital that we establish common rules and policies to foster interoperability and closer digital links.
13. India has focused on developing policies to strengthen digital infrastructure, including a robust framework for data governance. Singapore, in turn, has embarked on Digital Economy Agreements, which facilitate seamless end-to-end digital trade, enable the open and trusted use of data, and ultimately build trust in digital systems, which is the key foundation to grow the digital economy.
a. We are already cooperating in this area. For example, earlier this year, our central banks announced plans to link our digital payments systems to enable instant, low-cost fund transfers. This will further catalyse the substantial trade, travel, and remittance flows between our two countries.
14. Moving forward, we can, together, help to narrow, if not eliminate, the gulf between the digital haves and have-nots. We can work together and indeed, we must work together, to build digitally inclusive communities through cooperation and capacity building. We also look forward to the finalization and passing of India’s Personal Data Protection Bill, which will promote increased and meaningful participation in the digital economy.
15. It is also important that policymakers on all sides work with industry to lay the foundations for digital frameworks of the future, with elements such as digital identity, digital payment solutions, data exchange, data authorization and consent.
16. That brings me to my final point: connectivity. Global supply chains have been disrupted since the start of the pandemic. As a trade-dependent country, Singapore has not been immune to these disruptions. Nevertheless, we kept our sea links open throughout the height of the pandemic, served as a ‘catch-up port’ so that shipping lines have been able to make up for lost time elsewhere through our port in Singapore, and facilitated the regional distribution of essential goods and vaccines, by working with partners including Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).
17. Singapore recognizes the important role of various stakeholders in alleviating the issues faced by shipping companies and shippers. We therefore look forward to strengthening our partnerships with public and private sector stakeholders, including in India, to build more resilient global supply chains.
a. For example, PSA’s Bharat Mumbai Container Terminal recently attained the milestone of having handled three million TEUs since the start of its operations in 2018. Despite recent supply chain disruptions, PSA Mumbai continues to help alleviate delays in vessel schedules. This year, it has accommodated more than 100 ad hoc vessel calls from other terminals, keeping goods flowing to and from India. So, it is an important part of that global network of ports and the supply chain.
18. Moving forward, we can contribute together to setting global standards for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. As fellow IMO Council members – the elections were just held last week, and we are both fellow Members of the Council – we must prepare for the future of shipping in the key areas of maritime safety, decarbonisation and digitalisation.
19. Also, India and Singapore are also both Contracting Parties to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia, or ReCAAP, for short.
a. As the host country of the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre, we warmly congratulate Mr Krishnaswamy Natarajan, Director General of the Indian Coast Guard, on being successfully appointed as the 6th Executive Director of the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre in August this year.
20. ReCAAP is an essential component of international efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. And we remain committed to work with India other Contracting Parties like India, to achieve ReCAAP ISC’s objectives as a center of excellence in information sharing.
21. So, if I may conclude, India’s and Singapore’s economic relations are strong and multi-faceted. As we emerge from this pandemic and contend with other global challenges – the climate crisis, the future of healthcare, maintaining resilient supply chains, and adapting to new economic models – I am confident that the India-Singapore partnership is on a firm footing and well-placed to pursue new areas of cooperation aimed at addressing these crucial challenges.
22. I look forward to the next 5 decades of friendship and beyond, between Singapore and India, as we forge partnerships with a focus on Growth, Sustainability, Innovation, and Technology for the betterment of our two countries and our peoples.
23. Thank you.