Marching on together
By Sonia K

Small countries look at the world with similar perspectives. Brunei and Singapore see the world similarly, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in an impromptu press conference after a briefing by the Ministry of Finance and the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), at the Empire Hotel and Country Club yesterday.

He also called for the strong relationship between Singapore and Brunei to be continually nurtured and renewed.

Earlier in the morning, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Mr Lee had a brisk walkabout at the Empire Hotel and Country Club.

Accompanying them was HRH Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah.

In the afternoon HRH Prince Mohamed and HRH Pg Anak Isteri Pg Anak Hjh Zariah hosted a luncheon to Mr Lee and his wife at Balai Penghadapan, Bukit Kayangan.

Mr Lee, during the interview, highlighted the very strong relationship the two small countries has and how the two have managed to maintain this for a long time going back to the time when Senior Lee was the premier.

"Basically, because we are both small countries we see the world with a certain similar perspective and we cooperate with each other and exchange notes. It's a stable relationship, which has endured. The Currency Interchangeability Agreement is 40 years since we embarked on it and it has served us well and continued to serve us well," he said.

He also said that the two countries need to continue the projects, which are working well, and find new areas of cooperation and keep on maintaining the relationship; renewing and refreshing the links because new generations of ministers and younger civil servants need to get to know one another.

"So, this time when I came I brought quite a number of people with me so they can work on their contacts," the premier said.

On the question of future investments in Brunei, the premier said, "The private sectors of both countries are always in touch with each other so there are projects, which private companies will be evaluating, and wherever they make business sense the government blesses them and encourages them to go ahead."

In relation to the upcoming Asean Summit, which Singapore will be hosting in November, he said that early this year in Philippines, he had discussed about the Asean with two leaders (His Majesty and Philippine President Arroyo) and added that the leaders understand for the need to have a good charter.

"We have to have the charter ready and signed by November. There are issues, which have to be resolved, like high-level task forces to negotiate the charter.

"But I think the top leaders appreciate the urgency of this, that you have to be on the investors' map and to do that you have to have a strong organisation, good vision, effective rules so that we can work together as a regional group so we can be part of the game with China, India and what's going on all over Asia," he said.

In preparation for the November Asean Summit, discussions are under way on what costumes the leaders shall wear for the family photographs.

"One of the more vexing issues is the costume for the leaders to dress in for the photographs. We'll work that out in good time. We have a high-level committee working on that too," he added.

During the BEDB briefing, a welcoming remark was delivered by the Minister of Finance II Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, and a presentation on "Islamic Banking and Finance in Brunei Darussalam" by Dato Paduka Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, was presented to the Singapore PM.

After that, a presentation on "Developing New Economic Opportunities for Brunei Darussalam" was made by Dato Paduka Timothy Ong, Acting Chairman of Brunei Economic Development Board. - Borneo Bulletin (29th June 2007)