​Singapore eyes providing urban solutions for Vietnam: ambassador

Renewable energy, IT, hi-tech, smart city and urban solutions are among the sectors that Singapore may put more investment in Vietnam

Singapore’s Ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong is seen during an interview with Tuoi Tre News in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

“Singapore will continue to invest in many sectors in Vietnam in the future,” Singapore’s Ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong affirmed.

On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Vietnam – Singapore diplomatic relations, the ambassador sat down for an interview with Tuoi Tre News on the sidelines of the Singapore Food Festival in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26.

The two-day festival was part of the activities to celebrate the anniversary, featuring nearly 20 booths selling Singaporean delicacies.

The conversation below has been edited for cohesion, clarity, and concision.

Singapore is one of the top investors in Vietnam, could you please provide more information on the sectors where Singapore may increase investment in Ho Chi Minh City in the future?

Singapore is one of the earliest investors in Vietnam in the early years when the Vietnamese economy first started to open. We have been here for many years. Traditionally, we have a very strong place in real estate, in manufacturing, also in services, but going forward we’re trying to increase our investments in some new areas. Some of the areas we’re looking at are renewable energy, IT, hi-tech, and smart cities, which Vietnam is also interested in during the past years.

We’re also looking at companies that are providing urban solutions. Urban solutions can be anything from water management, traffic management to waste management and others.

These are areas where Singapore companies have some expertise and I think we are able to contribute.

Last but not least, we’re also looking at bringing more of our food and beverage sector companies in, so we have more restaurants of Singaporean food put up first in Ho Chi Minh City and subsequently maybe in other cities like Hanoi.

Singaporean Ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong and guests are seen making popiah, a Singaporean dish, at the Singapore Food Festival in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Singaporean Ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong and guests are seen making popiah, a Singaporean dish, at the Singapore Food Festival in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

You have just addressed smart city development in which Ho Chi Minh City also takes an interest. What are some of the strengths, in your point of view, Ho Chi Minh City has to turn into a smart city? And is there any lesson from Singapore that Ho Chi Minh City can learn from?

I think the biggest advantage is the fact that you have a very young and large population. You know young people are very talented, that’s a strength that Vietnam can take advantage of.

That’s also a potentiality which both Singapore and other foreign investors have seen and been encouraged to invest in.

I think the similarities between Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore are the needs and both are very much urban cities, but Singapore is smaller compared to Ho Chi Minh City, and our population is also smaller.

So I think when it comes to lessons, it really depends. It’s not possible to take everything we are doing in Singapore and apply it in Ho Chi Minh City. It needs to be adjusted according to your conditions, your needs and what people here want.

This year marks the 45th year of Vietnam – Singapore diplomatic relations, what do you think of the two countries’ diplomatic achievements?

The anniversary is a nice touch, and something that we celebrate.

But I think the reality is that there is a very close relation between the two countries at political level among the leaders, at business-to-business level where there is a lot going on, and then also people-to-people relations.

There are a lot of Vietnamese children going to Singapore to study, so a lot of these sections are ongoing and I think they will continue to happen. And now we have more and more Singaporean tourists coming to Vietnam, as well as more and more Vietnamese tourists to Singapore.

Our foreign policy is to make friends with everyone in the region and Vietnam has always been a very good partner for us, both bilaterally and within the ASEAN region. I think that’s basically the importance and value of our relationship.

Singapore’s Ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong is seen during the talk with Tuoi Tre in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Singapore’s Ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong is seen during an interview with Tuoi Tre News in Ho Chi Minh City on May 26, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

How has the special occasion been celebrated to boost the ties between the two countries?

This year is the 45th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, so we’re planning on a series of activities throughout the year, not just in Ho Chi Minh City but also in Hanoi.

For instance, in January, we organized a friendship charity run in Hanoi with Vietnamese partners, and the charity run managed to raise US$80,000 to build schools in the northern province of Tuyen Quang.

One celebratory thing is that our activities have been supported by not only Singaporean companies but also Vietnamese enterprises. This makes it more meaningful because at the end of the day, we want to profile the bilateral relationship and want to be able to build the ties, the link between the two nations.

In the latter half of the year, I think there will be more cultural and social activities, all targeting to celebrate 45 years of our relations.

Biggest investor in Ho Chi Minh City

In his remarks at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Food Festival on May 26, Le Quang Long, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of External Relations, emphasized that the two countries’ relationship has been remarkably characterized by dynamic economic cooperation.

To date, Singapore has been Vietnam’s sixth-largest trading partner in the world and the second largest one in ASEAN.

Two-way trade in 2017 reached $17 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent compared with 2016.

According to Long, Singapore is also the biggest ASEAN investor in Vietnam, as well as the biggest investor in Ho Chi Minh City among 93 countries and territories investing in the city, with a total of 1,000 projects worth $10 billion.

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