SINGAPORE: Singapore and Qatar have shown that size does not determine a country’s success, President Halimah Yacob said last night. At a state banquet she hosted for visiting Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, Madam Halimah spoke of the long friendship between the two small states and the similarities that bind them. “The trajectories of growth and development of our two countries show that success does not depend on size,” she said in a speech during her toast at the Istana, noting how both countries have served as dynamic hubs within their regions.
Singapore and Qatar have worked hard to be globally relevant, she said. They are both active, responsible and constructive members of the international community, business-friendly economies and strong advocates of free trade. And given their shared outlook and common interests, the relationship between the two countries has grown from strength to strength since diplomatic ties were established in 1984, she said. Anchoring this close relationship is the Qatar-Singapore High-Level Joint Committee, which has spawned 28 agreements across a wide range of fields, including urban planning. Qatar is the only Middle Eastern country with which Singapore has maintained such a high-level bilateral mechanism.
Qatar and Singapore also enjoy good people-to-people ties, said Madam Halimah. A “small but vibrant” community of nearly 500 Singaporeans live in Qatari capital Doha, while many Qataris visit Singapore for tourism and healthcare. There is potential to further strengthen the partnership between Qatar and Singapore, she said, adding: “Your Highness’ visit to Singapore will help to inject the necessary momentum to bring this relationship between our two countries to the next level.” Sheikh Tamim, in his speech in Arabic, thanked her for her interest in supporting the friendship and cooperation between their countries. “I assure you that we reciprocate this interest, which is evidenced by our visit today to Singapore, which has witnessed the signing of more agreements that will contribute to promoting and developing our relations,” he said. He and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had, in the afternoon, witnessed a signing ceremony at the Istana. The seven agreements span the legal, business, education and training sectors. They include a bilateral investment treaty that aims to boost trade and investment by providing businesses with better protection. Another agreement will see the Civil Service College help to train and develop Qatar Investment Authority employees.
Qatar and Singapore have also stepped up cooperation on various fronts, with the recent establishment of a Singapore Business Council in Doha, and the setting up of five technical committees in fields such as security and sustainability. A new Implementation Monitoring Mechanism (IMM), co-chaired by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim al-Thani, will oversee these committees. The IMM, which will be incorporated under the High-Level Joint Committee and have its first meeting in Doha next year, will establish a channel for Qatari and Singapore ministries and agencies to work together more closely . When they met, Sheikh Tamim and Mr Lee discussed a range of regional and international issues, and stressed the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation.