SINGAPORE, Feb 24 — The fourth Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat involving Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong beginning February 18, has the ingredients of becoming a historic event.
Among the many decisions adopted to take the mutual interest collaboration between the neighbours to new heights and inject ever-growing ambition, the announcement on the construction of the high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is historic, with potentially long-term benefits to the economies of the two neighbouring countries.
This may be just the beginning of a wider connectivity infrastructure among Asean members which will enhance the economic benefits of the Asean Economic Community, which is set to become a reality in 2015.
It reflects a long-term vision of mutually-beneficial interdependency and closeness between the two countries that paves the way to very significant economic and political benefits.
It has all the potential of a “game changer”, as put by Najib. He said the long-term plans required continuity and stability, a point that was echoed by his Singaporean counterpart.
As Malaysia gears towards its 13th general election, not only the Singapore prime minister but investors alike, would want continuity and stability in a country like Malaysia, where they have vested interests.
For Singapore, not only being Malaysia’s second largest export destination, and also the second largest source of imports, but the single largest investor in the Iskandar region, would not want a change in government as it could create uncertainty.
The efforts put up by both prime ministers, which led the bilateral ties to reach an excellent level would continue to prosper, if the present government continues to rule whilst investors’ confidence stays put as they will not have to worry about changes in policy.
Christian de Guzman, vice-president, senior analyst, Moody’s Investors Service Singapore Pte Ltd pointed out: “From our perspective, one important thing for us, is policy certainty.”
“Assurance that the policies were continued there, should not be a problem,” he told Bernama in a telephone interview.
Meanwhile, according to an analyst, foreign investors and investments do not like change. From the Western standpoint, he said they would like to see the incumbent party win because the present administration was seen to be pro-business and quite forward-looking.
Saying he was not taking sides, the analyst said, bringing in the opposition would risk uncertainty as they would be in the dark over their policies.
Touching on the outcome of the retreat, Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore, Datuk Md Hussin Nayan, described the fourth leaders retreat as a great success with projects agreed at earlier meetings progressing well, while proposal for new joint investments had also been agreed upon.
“The signing of agreements for the project in Medini and the launch of exclusive projects such as Marina One and Iskandar Waterfront between renowned private entities from both countries were clear signals that would drive and incrementally expand the scope and depth of cooperation between the two countries to new heights,” he told Bernama.
Additionally, Md Hussin said the announcement relating to cooperation on the construction of High Speed Rail link project indicated a milestone for the two countries to continuosly explore and realise economic potential for mutual benefit.
Sharing similar views that the retreat was successful, Dr Shane Oliver, Head of Investment Strategy and Chief Economist, AMP Capital said: “The meetings look to have been successful and so, if both leaders continue to build on what they have achieved at the leaders retreat, then it should be good for both Malaysia and Singapore.
Annie Koh, associate professor of finance, and vice-president, business development and external relations, Singapore Management University said: “Industries across both sides of the causeway have hailed the high-speed rail as the way forward for the collaboration of both countries. She said, not only will tourism-related industries benefit from this, many of the visitors attending conferences and conventions in Singapore will now have good reasons to take short day-trips all the way to Kuala Lumpur.
“And, if the high speed trains also have a local line with three or four stops in between, then there will also be reasons to stop over at Melaka, Ipoh, and other places in between.
“Many of Singapore’s SMEs are greeting the news positively. They see possibilities to engage more workers in the outskirts of Johor to work at the factories in Iskandar and perhaps, stay in their own homes outside of Johor. Koh said the connectivity went beyond moving people — it can also lead to the movement of goods and completing access for perishable products to make it to market within shorter times and still stay fresh. The vision, she said, if extended, was to continue eventually from KL to Bangkok. That connectivity will elevate the Asean collaboration to another whole new level.
“We are now definitely changing the game, and ASEAN integration no longer looks like a far-fetched dream — the aspiration to be one common market has started to look a lot more attainable and (Prime) Minister Najib is right, this is a game changer.
“I look forward to the day when I could leave from work at 5 and be in time to attend a wedding dinner in KL at 7,” she added.
Nick Wright, senior vice-president, head of global services and global markets for South Asia, State Street meanwhile, said: “We support all efforts for closer regional collaboration, and we believe it will serve Malaysia and Singapore well.” — Bernama