Two of Singapore’s most senior ministers are presently in two of the world’s biggest countries talking business – big business.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is on a week-long visit to southern China, and has laid out the parameters of the cooperation between Singapore and China on a third government-to-government venture.
The first two were the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-City projects.
This time round, according to news reports, PM Lee “wants to conceive of a project that fits in with China’s priorities.”
While no exact location for the project has been officially announced, the Chinese government had asked Singapore to start a new project in the western part of China and talks are ongoing.
Mr Lee’s comments and visit are a follow-up to the visit by Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean, and Minister for Social and Family Development, Chan Chun Sing, in August.
Mr Chan said then that the new project would be a milestone for bilateral relations.
“This will give us a new platform, a new milestone for our bilateral relations. We understand one of China’s priorities is to develop its western region. We hope to work on this together with China, to find a new business opportunity that will give our next generation of leaders a common platform to consolidate our bilateral relations,” he said.
At the same time that Mr Lee made the comments in China, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was also pledging support to developmental ambitions of the Indian sub-continent while on a five-day visit there.
In Madhya Pradesh, one of India’s fastest growing states, Singapore’s expertise was sought by the government there to help set up a vocational training centre and to develop industrial townships.
“We will try to see how we can help,” ESM Goh said, “but let’s take it step by step.”
Mr Goh had earlier met with Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in Delhi, and had also visited Hyderabad.
In August, Forbes magazine reported that “India is expected to see massive urbanization along the same lines of what we have seen in China.”
The Times of India had reported that Singapore had been asked by India to help it built 100 “smart cities”.
“The Chinese government has extensively utilized Singapore’s skills in such urban planning,” Forbes magazine said. “This experience should be leveraged further in India.”
“India is going down the path to manage its urbanization better via the creation of 100 smart cities,” Forbes said. “Singapore with its closeness to India and with relevant skills and experience in creation of smart and liveable cities in Asia is ideally positioned. What it needs to do is to boldly seize the moment.”
While Singapore’s involvement in these developmental plans in China and India are to be applauded, how it will benefit the average Singaporean is the question which perhaps Singaporeans themselves will ask, especially at a time when Singaporeans worry about retirement income and indeed about retirement itself.
“There are lots of opportunities for cooperation and economic development that will be fruitful for both Singapore and India,” said Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee, who is accompanying ESM Goh in India.
But how exactly will these new opportunities benefit the average man in the street, like the Suzhou and Tianjin projects, besides benefiting the businesses and businessmen directly involved?