HANOI, Vietnam – Singapore is slowly recovering after a grey year in 2009, but it will take time to get back to pre-crisis vibrancy.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made this point when addressing a group of Singaporeans, as part of his official trip to Vietnam.
And he said it was important to cultivate ties with neighbours, because Singapore did best when they prospered, as it prospered along with them.
Vietnam is an important economic partner of Singapore and many business people at the gathering said they are there as serious investors, and are in for the long term.
This is despite some difficulties doing business there.
“I would say primarily it would be language, and also because the infrastructure is not there, and for my industry in particular, (which is) supplies,” Esther Wee, managing director of Halia Restaurant.
Still, Mr Lee said overseas Singaporeans are important to the overall economy.
“Through your presence overseas, you will help us to prosper, and to become a robust and strong economy in the new phase. We cannot become robust and strong by ourselves. It depends on our neighbours, it depends on our outreach and our capabilities,” said PM Lee.
There are currently about 150 Singaporeans working in Hanoi, in areas as diverse as property development, information technology and food & beverage.
Meanwhile, Singapore and Vietnamese tourism officials are working to develop the cruise tourism industry in Southeast Asia.
Tourism officials said Southeast Asia currently enjoys about 7 per cent of the worldwide cruise market, so there is a lot of untapped potential.
One idea is to develop a Southeast Asian cruise market – which could see cruises taking off from Singapore, going up to Malaysia, then Thailand, along several sites in Vietnam and end off in Hong Kong.
“Southeast Asia lends itself very well as a cruise destination, given our deep waters, our year round tropical climate, and the diverse cultures and sightseeing opportunities in this region,” said Margaret Teo, Assistant Chief Executive, Development Group, Singapore Tourism Board.
But before that can take off, governments must work together to market the region as a whole.
And infrastructure such as cruise terminals and good roads to tourist sites will have to be built.