(MCI Photo by Fyrol)

Bhutanese Prime Minister: Bhutan looks to Singapore for inspiration

The Bhutanese Prime Minister is on the final day (30 Nov) of a three-day visit to Singapore stating that he came to Singapore to learn from its successes as a small nation.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said, “Mr Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore what we are trying to do in Bhutan, from third world to first, in a generation. We in Bhutan have many, many miles to go but we look to Singapore for inspiration,”

Channel NewsAsia reported that an official welcome ceremony was held for the Bhutanese Prime Minister at the Istana on Tuesday. The Bhutanese Prime Minister called on Acting President J Y Pillay then sat down for a meeting with Mr Lee.

This is his first official visit to Singapore as prime minister of Bhutan, and Prime Minister Lee said it marks a significant milestone in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

After a lunch with Mr Lee, Mr Tobgay visited Duxton to adorn a wreath at the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew memorial tree.

Mr Lee said that Bhutan as a small state with limited resources like Singapore, understands the importance of building up its workforce through education and training.

Mr Lee also said he is glad that people-to-people connections are strengthening between the two countries, for example, charity missions like Operation Smile Singapore are regularly visiting Bhutan.

He then said, “And I know from Facebook that many Singaporeans are discovering Bhutan as a tourist destination. And now there are direct flights between Singapore and Paro on Druk Air.”

“Annual passenger traffic between Singapore and Bhutan has increased fourfold to over 9,000. Such interactions help bring our two peoples closer together,” Mr Lee pointed.

Mr Tobgay said Singapore is now helping Bhutan develop a national infocomm technology master plan. The Temasek Foundation has granted S$1.2 million to two projects in the master plan.

According to UN Happiness Report in 2016, Bhutan is ranked 84th happiest country, out of 157 countries around the world but ranked top in terms of equality.

Mr Lee said in his Facebook that he was happy to welcome PM Tobgay yesterday during his first official visit to Singapore.

Many who commented on the Facebook post, asked that Singapore should do more to conserve the limited greenery in the island state.

Siew Kheng wrote, “The air in Bhutan is so much better than Singapore as they have strict control on high rise building and conservation of the greens.”

Carol Sim wrote, “Mr PM, will you then stop your minister from converting our pathetic “green” land & islands for commercial use? We don’t need more shopping centers… we need big areas for the young and old to run, to stroll and to relax.”

Ronald Ho wrote, “There is no reason why we cannot change our attitude towards buildings and infrastructure. I am sad each time I see precious green space torn apart to fit another condominium (like at Dairy Farm Road). This mindset change must begin with our Government, our City Planners and Government Agencies.”