ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
S'pore companies urged to invest in Shandong province
QINGDAO, China: Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has urged Singapore companies to invest in the Chinese province of Shandong.
Mr Goh is on an official visit to the cities of Jinan and Qingdao, marking his first visit to Shandong province in 21 years.
Total investments between Singapore and Shandong jumped 60 per cent last year from 2012 to touch the US$1 billion mark.
With an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of US$892 billion, Shandong's economy is about three times that of Singapore's.
It is also the third-richest province in China in GDP terms, after Guangdong and Jiangsu.
But because it has a significantly larger population, per capita GDP is relatively low.
And that is why the provincial government is keen to attract more investments.
This was a key focus at the bilateral meeting between Mr Goh and Shandong Party Secretary Jiang Yikang and Governor Guo Shuqing on Friday.
Mr Goh said: "Your leadership now also speaks the language of business. And also, your predictability of the implementation of policies -- (that) can be known. Frankly speaking, in the past... when you change the governor, the party secretary, sometimes implementation can change."
Mr Jiang called Mr Goh "an old friend of China and Shandong", and urged deeper and more extensive cooperation between Singapore and Shandong in new areas such as finance, human resource development and social management.
Mr Guo said that Shandong was keen to learn from Singapore's experience in many areas such as modern services, research and development, education, healthcare and innovation. And to this end, both sides should establish a "new starting point" to strengthen bilateral cooperation, building upon the strong foundation that has already been established.
Earlier in the day, Mr Goh also met with Jinan Party Secretary Wang Min, and attended a briefing on the Sino-Singapore Jinan Smart City.
The smart city is a new township development co-developed by the private sectors of the two countries.
Mr Goh recounted how about two decades ago, Shandong province was lobbying for Singapore to build an industrial estate there.
And although the Singapore government eventually decided on Suzhou, he initiated the Singapore-Shandong Business Council.
The council, currently co-chaired by Singapore's Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Teo Ser Luck, has helped to bring about broad-based cooperation -- with Singapore's investments to Shandong now spread across the province.
Shandong is the first Chinese province with which Singapore established a business council.
Mr Goh said: "The key measurement of success to me is the investments are Singapore investments, whereas in the Suzhou Industrial Estate, the development was done by Singapore and Suzhou, but the investors are not Singapore investors, they are mainly foreign investors."
According to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Goh and the leaders of Shandong province "reaffirmed the longstanding ties and extensive cooperation between Singapore and Shandong". They also acknowledged the "good progress and effectiveness of the Singapore-Shandong Business Council as a platform to enhance bilateral cooperation between Singapore and Shandong".
Mr Goh sees Shandong and Singapore as having a mutually-beneficial relationship because Shandong wants to attract investments, and Singapore, as a capital surplus country, needs to find places where it can invest its capital. He added that Shandong is a good investment destination for Singapore companies as it has the right fiscal and economic environment.
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