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National Day: National Day 23 Sep
2019 Embassy Activities Round-Up
Saudi – Singapore Ties: Towards New Horizons
The year 2019 has turned out to be a momentous landmark for relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Singapore, which was cemented even further by the warm reception accorded to Singapore’s President Halimah binti Yacob, on her first State Visit to the Kingdom last November. It was the first time in the history of the diplomatic relations of the two nations that such an event took place and it received every acclaim that it richly deserved (for more on this see pages 44 to 47).
Contributing to Vision 2030
This year kicked off with the visit of Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam to Saudi Arabia in January, building on the warm and longstanding relationship between both countries. While the January meeting was held with HRH Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to discuss bilateral ties, the second trip in in July was focused on meeting Saudi ministers and conversations with senior bankers and officials hosted by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority. The two visits afforded an opportunity to discuss several areas where Singapore can work together with Saudi Arabia, to contribute towards the realisation of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision.
Underpinning the growing impetus of these ongoing dialogues Senior Minister Tharman shared that: “We already have meaningful cooperation on several fronts, including education, urban planning, the Hajj pilgrimage, and security. Our economies complement each other very well. Singapore is a small nation, but our niche strengths are relevant to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to transform its economy. We also have a high degree of respect for each other. These features of our relationship set the basis for deeper ties in the years to come.”
In June, HRH Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman also met the Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Hsien Loong on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The two sides exchanged talks on a number of issues of common concern, especially bilateral relations in all fields. Singapore was invited to participate in the G20 meetings and the Riyadh Summit in 2020. The Riyadh Summit, scheduled to be held in November 2020, will be the 15th meeting of G20 Heads of State and Government.
A delegation from the Ministry of Housing, headed by HRH Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, Advisor to the Minister of Housing and General Supervisor of the Ministry’s Agency for Housing Support visited Singapore in September and met with HE Mr. Lawrence Wong Minister of National Development and a number of Singaporean officials in the field of housing and construction to discuss cooperation opportunities between the two countries and benefit from their experiences in this area.
During the Smart Nation Summit held in Singapore in June, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology HE Haytham Al-Ohali announced that the Kingdom is investing about one billion US dollars to support the artificial intelligence sector with a focus on startups research and skills development and the continuation of digital capacity building programs for national cadres, and support for greater investment in innovation and technology entrepreneurship. These measures will open the door for the Singaporean companies to look for opportunities in these projects and create more investment and cooperation between the two countries.
Hajj and New eVisa Programme
In 2019 the official quota of Singapore Hajj pilgrims was 900 and the Saudi Embassy has always supported requests to increase this number. Apart from Hajj, the Saudi seasons are aimed to open new tourism attractions as tourist visas are now available to nationals from 49 countries including Singapore. It was announced by the Saudi Ambassador in Singapore, HE Saad Saleh Al-Saleh, at a press conference here in September, that the introduction of an e-Visa programme that will make it easier to visit the Kingdom. Travellers can also apply for their visas at the Saudi Arabian consultate or Embassy.
In February the Ambassador held a dinner banquet for HE Ahmed Al-Hakbani, the Governor of General Customs Authority, during his visit to Singapore where he also met his counterpart Singapore Customs’ Director-General, Mr Ho Chee Pong. They discussed trade digitalisation strategies and ways to enhance cooperation.
In March HE Dr Fahad bin Abdullah Al Mubarak Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, Secretary-General of the G20 Saudi Arabia Secretariat met with HE Heng Swee Keat Minister for Finance of Singapore together with an official delegation as well as the Ambassador. HE Dr. Fahad also met with HE Tharman Shanmugaratnam (the then Deputy Prime Minister & Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies of Singapore) and presently Senior Minister.
In April the Ambassador attended the opening of ‘Arabs in Singapore’ exhibition under the patronage of Singapore President HE Mdm. Halimah Yacob. The exhibition traced the vital role of Arabs in early Singapore history especially in the areas of trade, education, social unity, philanthropy, community development, music and culture.
Before the start of Ramadhan, as per past tradition and practice the Ambassador and HE Dr. Mohamad Maliki bin Osman, the Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, launched at the Embassy headquarters the distribution of dates offered by the Kingdom to Singapore.
The World Opportunities Forum (WOF) held in May 2019 proved to be another highlight as the Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships from Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Mr Abdullah B. Al-Harbi attending the WOF shared: “I have come especially from Riyadh to tell you that we are more than ever open to the world,” while speaking of the many opportunities open to investors and businessmen in Saudi Arabia, in line with the Kingdom’s economic agenda of Vision 2030, launched in 2016. He pointed out that “We cannot achieve this Vision without the participation of, and full and complete partnership with the private sector…so this vision is a joint vision between the government and the private sector.”
On 5th June 2019 the Ambassador joined other Singaporean Muslims at the Sultan Mosque in the presence of President Halimah Yacob, Minister Masagos Zulkifli and officials in Singapore for the Eid al-Fitr prayers. The Ambassador also showed the Kingdom’s support for the Singapore Inter-Racial, Inter-Religious Harmony Nite Dinner 2019 in July, where he joined the President of Singapore, Mdm Halima Yacob, supporting the dinner ceremony celebrating the harmony between ethnicities and religions.
On 8th August 2019, the Kingdom became one of the signatories of the Singapore Convention on Mediation. The delegation for the signing ceremony was headed by HE Bader Al-Haddab, Saudi Arabia Deputy Minister of Technical Affairs in the Ministry of Commerce and Investment.
In September HRH Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, Advisor to the Minister of Housing and General Supervisor of the Ministry’s Agency for Housing Support, was Head of the Kingdom’s Delegation to the World Environmental Building Week (IBEW) where together with the Ambassador they received Singapore’s National Development Minister, HE Mr Lawrence Wong at the Kingdom’s Pavilion. Minister Wong inaugurated the opening of the IBEW.