Thursday, 22 October 2009
Contact at the highest level
You may have missed the news that the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, is on a two-day visit to Singapore and was hosted to lunch by Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Lee spoke the following words: (excerpt)
SPEECH BY MR LEE HSIEN LOONG, PRIME MINISTER, AT OFFICIAL LUNCH HOSTED IN HONOUR OF PRIME MINISTER OF THE NETHERLANDS HIS EXCELLENCY DR JAN PETER BALKENENDE , 22 OCTOBER 2009, 12:31 PM AT THE ISTANA BANQUET HALL
The bilateral relationship between our two countries is a strong and longstanding one. The Netherlands was among the first countries to recognise Singapore's independence and establish diplomatic relations in 1965. We are also indebted to Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius, who provided invaluable and wise advice on economic development and investment policy for many years starting in the 1960s, even before Singapore became independent. On the occasion of Prime Minister Balkenende’s visit, I am pleased to announce that we will be naming one of our public roads after Dr Winsemius, in recognition of his contributions to Singapore.
Today, Singapore and the Netherlands are linked in many ways. Our economic relationship is robust and deep. The Netherlands is our third largest European trading partner. It is also our second largest investor, with over S$50 billion worth of assets in Singapore. This is a remarkable figure, showing that size is no impediment to achieving a considerable economic impact. Almost a thousand Dutch firms operate out of Singapore, adding to our economic vibrancy and diversity. On our part, Singapore has investments worth S$3.1 billion in the Netherlands.
Beyond the economic and security spheres, our people-to-people ties remain strong, anchored by a significant Dutch community in Singapore. Many Dutch citizens contribute to our economy and society, just as Dr Albert Winsemius did a generation ago.
May I now invite you to join me in a toast to the continued good health and success of Your Excellency Prime Minister Balkenende; peace and prosperity for the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; and closer relations between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Singapore.
It is funny that he mentions the "significant Dutch community in Singapore", but chooses to ignore the equally significant Singapore community in the Netherlands. He could have said: "there is also a significant Singapore community in the Netherlands, many of whom are gay men who for various reasons choose to move to the low countries."