National Day message 2013
Singapore the fifth most
competitive in the world
The following article was contributed to The Korea Post for publication by the Embassy of Singapore in Seoul on the occasion of the National Day on Aug. 9, 2013.--Ed.
1. Singapore celebrates its 48th National Day on 9 August 2013. Despite challenging global economic conditions, the Singapore economy grew by 3.7 % year-on-year in the 2nd quarter of 2013. Underlining the dynamism of Singapore, the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2013 listed Singapore as the 5th most competitive country in the world.
2. The economic path ahead remains challenging. Risks to the global economic growth outlook remain. Other uncertainties, including the risk of an escalation in regional geopolitical tensions, will also dim global economic growth prospects. Nonetheless, the Singapore Government is keeping up its efforts to improve the lives of Singaporeans and to address their pressing concerns. The Government will also continue to invest in the future of Singaporeans. As part of our commitment to equipping Singaporeans with the skills and knowledge to fulfil their potential, we recently opened the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)’s third centralised campus, ITE College Central. ITE is an integral part of Singapore’s multi-faceted and inclusive education system, providing young Singaporeans with the option of pursuing trade-specific vocational training.
3. The Singapore Government is also determined to continue to make Singapore economically competitive and attractive for foreign investors. The Marina Bay area, planned as a seamless extension of the existing Central Business District of Singapore, stands testimony to our continuing efforts to make Singapore a great city to live, work and play in. Apart from the leading financial institutions and legal firms that are located around the Bay, the latest addition, the Marina Bay Financial Centre, boasts one of the largest trading floors in Asia. Besides strengthening Singapore’s position as a global financial business hub, the Bay serves as a dynamic public space for community activities and celebrations, with a mix of recreational and cultural establishments for the public to enjoy such as the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, and the 3.6 kilometre long waterfront promenade. Next year, the Bay will welcome another recreational addition - the Sports Hub, which will feature a range of sports and community facilities.
4. In the meantime, Singapore’s tourism landscape continues to evolve rapidly with new and exciting experiences to offer each visitor, the Marine Life Park, Gardens by the Bay, River Safari and Art Stage Singapore being some of our latest offerings. Singapore also continues to play host to the world’s only Formula One night race with a recent five-year extension until 2017, testimony to our commitment to offer iconic and differentiated experiences to our trend-savvy visitors from Korea and other countries.
5. Singapore’s relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK) have gone from strength to strength, bolstered by frequent high-level visits by both countries’ leaders. At the ROK’s invitation, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong visited Seoul in February 2013 to attend President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration ceremony. Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong visited in March 2013 to officiate at the opening of the Peranakan Exhibit at the National Museum of Korea. Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin visited Singapore in May 2013 to participate in the 12th Shangri-La Dialogue, while Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se made his introductory visit to Singapore in June 2013. The similarity of our experiences creates mutual understanding and a bond between our leaders and people. Singapore has experienced rapid economic development within a short span of less than 50 years, an experience that the ROK would be familiar with, having experienced the “Miracle of the Han River”.
6. Our economic relations have flourished over the years. In 2012, Singapore was the ROK’s 7th largest trading partner. From 2011 to 2012, bilateral trade grew by 12.7% to S$52.7 billion. The Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (KSFTA), which entered into force in 2006, was the ROK’s 2nd FTA and its 1st FTA in Asia. The ROK is an important marketplace for the Singapore economy. With stock investments of about S$3.36 billion as at end-2011 in this market, an increase of 4.4% from 2010, Singapore was the ROK’s third-largest Asian investor in 2012. More than 1,000 Korean companies have decided to set up operations in Singapore and we welcome more Korean companies to take advantage of our pro-business environment and the significant pool of local and foreign talent that have made Singapore their home.
7. Singapore and Korean companies possess skill sets that are complementary. There is scope for them to cooperate on projects in third countries like the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Project in China, the Batam, Bintan, Karimun Special Economic Zone in Indonesia, and the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks in Vietnam. Korean companies can also look to Singapore to deepen their understanding of Southeast Asian markets, develop and test-bed region-specific solutions, as well as internationalise their brands. With an extensive network of 19 regional and bilateral FTAs, 40 Investment Guarantee Agreements and 71 Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements in force, Korean companies can lower their business costs and minimise double taxation when using Singapore as a hub to enter regional and global markets.
8. Regionally, the ROK has been a strong and valuable partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The elevation of ROK-ASEAN relations from a "Comprehensive Cooperation Partnership" to a "Strategic Partnership" in 2010 has deepened relations. We look forward to the ASEAN-ROK Special Summit to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN-ROK relations in 2014. This is an important milestone and ASEAN welcomes the ROK’s initiative to host the Special Summit. ASEAN is currently working to broaden and deepen its economic engagement of its FTA partners by establishing a wider-regional FTA, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP is envisioned to be one of the world’s largest FTA with an integrated market of more than 3 billion people and a combined GDP of about US$ 17.23 trillion, which is about one-third of the world’s current annual GDP. The RCEP will ensure that the regional economic architecture remains open and inclusive. We are heartened by the ROK and other ASEAN FTA partners’ support for the RCEP and look forward to a timely conclusion of the RCEP negotiations.
9. The ROK is also a valuable supporter of the ASEAN Connectivity initiative. Both Singapore and the ROK co-organised the ASEAN-ROK Seminar on the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) in November 2012, raising awareness of the MPAC and the opportunities it brings among relevant stakeholders, including Korean companies. We welcome the ROK’s active and consistent support for the MPAC, such as the initiative to establish an inter-agency taskforce on ASEAN Connectivity to engage the ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee. A well-connected ASEAN is one that is more stable and prosperous, making it a bigger market for Korean goods and services. With 15 priority projects in areas such as infrastructure, transport, and information communications technology development, the MPAC also presents rich business opportunities for Korean companies.
10. On the cultural front, through the staging of the “Peranakan World: Cross Cultural Art from Singapore and the Straits” exhibition which ran from 19 March to 19 May 2013 at the National Museum of Korea, Singapore brought a unique aspect of Southeast Asian history and traditions into Korea. The Peranakan Chinese, descendants of southern Chinese traders who settled in Southeast Asia, have a culture that is not only deeply rooted in Chinese traditions and values, but also displays characteristics of Southeast Asian and European influences. Through the exhibition and the accompanying Korean language catalogue, Singapore sought to share with the Korean people the unique influences in Peranakan culture and deepen their understanding of our rich multicultural heritage. We hope to build on this cultural exchange and invite the National Museum of Korea to hold an exhibition of Korean historical art and culture in Singapore. I am certain this will help enhance the mutual understanding between our peoples.
11. Going forward, Singapore can also learn from the ROK in the area of creative industries. The Korean wave, or hallyu, has taken the world by storm. Korean music, movies, and dramas are very popular in Singapore and more Singaporeans are visiting the ROK and picking up the language. The Korean wave hit fever pitch when the M-net Asian Music Awards and SM Town Live Tour III were held in Singapore in November 2011 and November 2012 respectively, attracting fans from all over Southeast Asia. There is much more that both countries can do together to contribute to the cultural vibrancy of Asia.
12. I believe that with the continuous support from our Korean friends, we can together forge stronger and closer Korea-Singapore relations in the years to come. On this auspicious occasion of Singapore’s 48th National Day, let me wish all Singaporeans living in the ROK a Happy National Day and all Koreans and friends of Singapore a happy and prosperous year ahead. k