ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Singapore as development role model for Myanmar: Suu Kyi
MYANMAR opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cemented Singapore's role as a major economic partner and model for her country on a five-day trip to the island, taking home what she said were valuable lessons on education policy and anti-graft measures.
But her endorsement of the wealthy city-state came with a caveat Myanmar could do without the materialistic and high-pressure society that has accompanied Singapore's decades-long transformation from tropical backwater to economic powerhouse.
"I want to learn a lot from the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve, but I wonder whether we don't want something more for our country," the Nobel Peace laureate told reporters on Monday evening as she prepared to return home.
She added: "Perhaps Singapore could learn from us a more relaxed way of life."
Despite that reservation, Suu Kyi's first visit to Singapore is seen as affirming Myanmar's close ties with the city-state as it seeks investments and aims to tap technocratic expertise to help its transformation to democracy from dictactorship.
Suu Kyi, 68, met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, chief executives from some of the world's biggest companies, and visited Singapore's successful anti-corruption bureau.
She said many of her country's people believe Singapore could provide them with the key planks of their development model as it grapples with huge challenges, ranging from decrepit infrastructure to ethnic violence.
"A lot of Burmese look to Singapore when they think of economic reforms in our country because they see the success of Singapore, and many of our young people are getting their education here so these are the sectors where many of our people feel they can learn from," she said, referring to Singapore's education and anti-corruption policies in particular.
Singapore was a major proponent of maintaining diplomatic relations and providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar under the military junta that was shunned and sanctioned by the West.
In 2001, it established a centre in the commercial capital Yangon to provide education for public servants, giving them training in English, trade, finance and information technology.
Now it is reaping the benefits of those close ties as the country of about 60 million opens up to investors after a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011.
Singapore trade agency International Enterprise (IE) opened an office in Yangon last year to help companies from the city-state invest in the country.
Singapore is Myanmar's third-largest trading partner, with trade between the two countries reaching S$1.8 billion (US$1.44 billion) in 2012.
All three of Singapore's banks DBS Group Holdings Ltd , Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd and United Overseas Bank Ltd have had representative offices in Myanmar since the 1990s, while Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings is aiming to become one of the country's biggest conglomerates by opening department stores, importing trucks and developing plantations.
"Many Singaporean firms are certainly rushing into Myanmar with foreign investment rising sharply in recent months," said Kevin McGahan, a political science lecturer at the National University of Singapore.Reuters
Letters that do not contain full contact information cannot be published.
Letters become the property of AseanAffairs and may be republished in any format.
They typically run 150 words or less and may be edited
submit your comment in the box below