KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Singapore and Malaysia, as founding members of ASEAN and like-minded partners, must help the region remain united and credible, said Singapore President Halimah Yacob.
Halimah said this is crucial because the external environment is becoming increasingly volatile and challenging with major power rivalries sharpening, the global economic outlook remaining uncertain due to the war in Ukraine and the long aftershocks of COVID-19.
“Without a stable external environment, all of us in ASEAN will find it harder to transform our economies and improve the lives of our peoples. I am confident that Singapore and Malaysia can work together to advance both our national as well as ASEAN’s interest,” she said.
Halimah said this in her speech at the State Banquet hosted by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at Istana Negara, here, today.
Also present were Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.
Halimah said, over the past three years, Singapore and Malaysia have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to tackle COVID-19, a once-in-a- generation test.
“I am happy to note that next month marks the first anniversary of the reopening of our borders since the pandemic. Both air and land traffic between our two countries have been steadily returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“I am heartened that since our borders fully reopened to each other in April 2022, there has been slightly more than one million Singaporeans who travel to Malaysia each month just via our land checkpoints,” she said.
When the much-awaited Johor Bahru- Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS) is completed by 2026, Halimah expressed her confidence that the connectivity between two already close neighbours will be further strengthened.
Halimah said there is much scope for both countries to expand cooperation into new and exciting areas for mutual benefit.
“As our businesses and peoples increasingly go online, we need future-ready frameworks in place to promote digital wellness, secure our cyber infrastructure, and close the digital divide.
“As our economies transition to be powered by more renewable and low-carbon sources of energy, we need sensible rules which both protect our environment and promote sustainable growth as well as technological innovation,” she said.
She said as Singapore and Malaysia share an intertwined destiny, what Singapore and Malaysia can achieve together is only limited by both countries imagination and political will.
Earlier Halimah was accorded a state welcome at Istana Negara in conjunction with her maiden three-day visit to Malaysia which began yesterday.
In 2022, Singapore was Malaysia’s second largest global trading partner and the largest among ASEAN countries, with total trade amounting to US$83.53 billion – an increase of 29.4 per cent compared to the recorded value in 2021.