Singapore Government Press Release

Media Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,

MITA Building, 140 Hill Street, 2nd Storey, Singapore 179369

Tel: 6837-9666






My wife and I thank you for honouring us with this event.We also thank Dr R Theyvendran and his Organising Committee for their time and effort.We are particularly grateful that all the various sectors of the Indian community and grassroots organisations have come together to organise this dinner.


Many of you may recall these words of Shakespeare in Twelfth Night:


� �.some men

Are born great, some achieve greatness, and

Some have greatness thrust upon them.�


Among the Singapore leaders, you know of course who was born great.As to who has achieved greatness, well, Lee Hsien Loong has just taken on the job as Prime Minister.As for me, alas, I only had responsibility thrust upon me.But I am not complaining.I am fulfilled knowing that I have discharged this responsibility of looking after Singapore.


You have organised tonight�s function to pay tribute to what I had done for Singapore and your community during my term as Prime Minister.I thank you for this and for your steadfast support, warmth and friendship.I also want to pay a tribute to you for your significant contribution to a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous Singapore.


Though the Indian community forms less than 10 percent of the population, your contribution far exceeds this and can be seen everywhere.You have distinguished yourselves in diverse fields like politics, medicine, law, education, business and other professions.You have done well not just at the very top.The entire community has also played an important role in Singapore�s development and nation-building.


Your achievements are a testament to the two core principles fundamental to Singapore - meritocracy and multi-racialism.


Your community also possesses the spirit of self-help.I am happy that those in the community who have done well do not just selfishly focus on advancing their own careers.Instead, through active involvement in community and welfare programmes, they have helped to uplift the lives of the needy and less able.I take this opportunity to acknowledge the good work done by SINDA and other Indian organisations.I hope that more of you will step forward to make a difference to the lives of those who need help.


What more can the Indian community do for itself and Singapore?I will focus on only one area which is close to my heart � and something which I will continue to do as Senior Minister - building long-term relations with India.


I have always believed that it is in Singapore�s interests to build strong abiding relations with India.


First, we have a substantial Indian community in Singapore.Hence, it is useful to maintain our links with one of the ancestral homelands of our forefathers.As Singapore is a young country, we can gain ballast by drawing from the culture and heritage of an ancient and glorious civilisation like India�s.


Second, I believe that India will emerge as a major economic power and geopolitical player.Singapore can benefit from India�s growth just as we are benefiting from China�s.


I made my first official visit to India in 1994.The late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had invited me to India�s Republic Day.I was struck by his intention to reform the Indian economy, albeit slowly.I recognized the potential of the country, should he succeed in doing this.I returned to Singapore determined to spark off an �India fever�.Although at that time many doubted India�s commitment to economic openness, I never lost faith in India.I continued to visit India regularly and encouraged Singaporeans to invest in India.Now, I am more convinced than ever before that India will stay the course on economic reform and liberalisation.But it will advance at a pace which will not cost the government to lose elections.


Our Indian community can play a useful role in helping Singapore tap the India market.Just as our Chinese businessmen enjoy special guanxi in China, our Indians too have special knowledge, understanding of local culture and family and business connections with India.Our Indians visit India regularly for holidays or go to temples for puja.These visits not only strengthen bilateral relations through enhancing people-to-people ties but also provide valuable opportunities to network and identify business opportunities.


We have been negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India.Finance Minister Chidambaram who was in Singapore this week had said that the CECA will be concluded soon.This is a substantive agreement which will provide a big boost to bilateral relations.The FTA is not just an economic but also a strategic agreement.It will strengthen the links between India and Singapore.Enhanced connectivity will bring the peoples of both countries closer, facilitate the flow of people and add to the vibrancy of our own Indian community.


For the past 10 years, we have been actively welcoming talented Indian nationals to study, work and live here.This is part of our larger strategy to make Singapore a capital for global talent.For Singapore to sustain our competitive advantage, drive and leading economic edge, we need to attract talent from all over the world to supplement our own talent pool.Global talent brings with them valuable skills and networks.It adds to the richness and diversity of our multi-racial society.The reason for bringing in such talent is compelling because Singaporeans are not reproducing enough to replace ourselves.This is particularly true of the Chinese community.It is also true of the Indian community.Your Total Fertility Rate is only 1.31, way below the replacement rate of 2.1.We therefore have no choice but to top up our local population with capable new immigrants.These �new� Singaporeans will help to sustain the drive and dynamism of our economy and society.


My effort to generate a stream of capable Indian nationals to Singapore goes as far back as 1992 when I first met PM Rao in Jakarta during the Non-Aligned Movement Summit.At that time, I raised with him Singapore�s interest in encouraging more Indians to come to Singapore.I told him that India was losing many students and professionals to the West.Since India was losing them, why not encourage them to come to Singapore, I pleaded my case.Singapore was nearer to India and these Indian nationals could contribute to both Singapore and India.Rao agreed with me.He replied that top Indian talent were all over the world.He supported their coming to Singapore to study, work or settle.


I am happy that there has been a new wave of Indian nationals coming to Singapore over the last 10 years.Given their ties with India, they can form an additional link between India and Singapore and help to enhance our bilateral relations.I hope to see an increase in this flow.I also hope that some will eventually settle down and become Permanent Residents or citizens.If expatriate Indians decide to adopt Singapore as their home, I hope that they will make the effort to adapt to our way of life, integrate with our society and contribute to the development of Singapore and our Indian community.


Our local Indian community can introduce these �new� Singaporeans to various aspects of our multicultural society and helping them assimilate into Singapore society.By taking an inclusive approach, we will strengthen their commitment to Singapore.This will ensure that a generation from now, these �new� Singaporeans and their children will truly be a part of us.


Let me conclude.The Indian community has made tremendous contributions to our nation�s progress.Your strong and steadfast support has helped to make Singapore a success.I am confident that you will continue to play a crucial role in making Singapore a truly outstanding country.


Thank you.