Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat spent a good part of last Friday (Sep 16) building economic and social ties for Singapore – advancing the Government’s work of securing Singapore’s international standing and tightening our multi-ethnic social fabric.
Two suggestions: China-ASEAN trade routes and the future economy
At the China-ASEAN Expo, which aims to promote new trade opportunities between ASEAN and China and deliberate upon upcoming important economic developments, DPM Heng suggested that both parties use their shared land, air and sea trade routes more.
The guest speaker also recommended co-building the digital and green sectors of the future economy. He was speaking virtually at the Opening Ceremony.
“ASEAN and China can work together to harness the full potential of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, which started as an initiative between Singapore and China,” said DPM Heng.
He pointed to how the Corridor became “a viable alternative to traditional trade routes” during the pandemic: its cargo flows grew at 30 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2022.
“As a multi-modal and multi-faceted economic link, the Corridor reduces time and costs for the movement of goods and provision of services, and also strengthens supply chain resilience.”
Air connectivity is equally important for success too, DPM Heng added.
“We should further liberalise the ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement to support our civil aviation and tourism industries, as we emerge from the pandemic,” he said.
On the future economy, DPM Heng underlined the importance of both digital and green economies.
“The digital economy is a key building block for the future, while the pandemic is an opportunity for us to pursue a green recovery,” DPM Heng further advised about strategic economic development.
“ASEAN and China have made good progress in these areas,” he stated. “We recently approved the Action Plan on Implementing ASEAN-China Partnership on Digital Economy Cooperation, as well as the 2022 ASEAN-China Digital Work Plan.”
ASEAN and China also issued the Joint Statement on Enhancing Green and Sustainable Development Cooperation in Oct 2021.
“These are important first steps to strengthen the foundations for developing a more digital and greener regional economy,” DPM Heng noted.
Spreading the Deepavali joy
Later on Friday, DPM Heng attended the Deepavali 2022 Light-Up Ceremony along Serangoon Road, an event that has “added meaning” this year.
“We are learning to live with the virus. We are resuming normal activities, including coming together physically in large groups with minimal restrictions, like today,” said DPM Heng. “So this year’s Deepavali light-up has added meaning, as we reflect on our journey over the last two years.”
Deepavali signifies the triumph of good over evil, and as the DPM noted, Singapore is emerging into the light after the “dark and difficult two years” of Covid-19.
Also, Deepavali in Singapore is traditionally also a way for the Indian community, as well as other races and ethnicities in Singapore’s multicultural mix, to come together, DPM Heng mentioned.
“It is an occasion for us to celebrate our diversity and unique identity, to strengthen our bonds as a people. It is an occasion to reaffirm our commitment to build a harmonious, multi-racial and multi-cultural society,” said DPM Heng.
“Doing so requires us to stay open to people from around the globe. In a world that is more fragmented, we must resist the forces of division.”
He added too that Deepavali is also an occasion for spreading festive joy.
“LISHA (Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association) is collaborating with LTA for Deepavali designs to line the sides and floors of public trains and buses,” he mentioned, while noting that LISHA is also partnering SINDA to raise funds for the needy through the Project Give Programme.
Additionally, said the DPM, the Indian Heritage Centre is offering exciting gaming tours, where participants can explore the streets to understand the history and heritage of the precinct. The Hindu Endowment Board and its four supporting temples are also raising funds for the President’s Challenge.
“Together, we can make Deepavali a Festival of Joy for everyone in our community,” said DPM Heng.
As his busy Friday shows, this internal base-building doesn’t occur in a vacuum: while at home the Government and the public are sharing and listening, Singapore’s being taken care of on the international stage too.
Cover photo credit: DPM Heng Facebook