x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Leaders look to firm ties with Singapore

A high-level delegation is given a close-up view of Singapore's success story, during a two-day visit to the city state.

SINGAPORE // A high-level delegation led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was given a close-up view of Singapore's success story during a two-day visit to the city state that ended yesterday. In visits to some of Singapore's leading research and development centres, Sheikh Mohammed was given a view of the institutions fuelling Singapore's development, offering a model for the UAE. On Tuesday, the delegation visited Singapore's twin research campuses, Fusionopolis and Biopolis. Dealing with innovations in physical and life sciences respectively, the two centres provide a potential model for collaboration between private and state agencies. At Fusionopolis, Sheikh Mohammed was shown around a 3D, virtual Singapore, as well as being given demonstrations of a number of multimedia devices with potential for use in both education and business. The technologies had been developed at the centre, with a view to being used both by government bodies and companies there, and marketed worldwide.

Yesterday, the delegation went to Government House, for a meeting with the Singapore president, SR Nathan, and the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong. The governments have drawn closer in recent years, with an increase in mutual investments. One official, who asked not to be named, called the visit "a follow-up on the successes that have been taking place in the past three years in things like joint ventures between the Singaporean and Abu Dhabi companies". "There are many things that we're looking for," said Dr Ahmed al Mazrouei, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Health Authority. "Singapore can sell and send so much know-how to the world, and the UAE and Abu Dhabi can do the same."

One aim of the visit was to see work on the ground, he added. It followed Abu Dhabi's first Executive Leadership Forum, held in January, which gave the heads of 20 government departments the chance to explore how the governments of other nations worked. Through the work of the Abu Dhabi-Singapore Joint Forum, launched in June 2007, the two cities have developed a strategic relationship in areas such as health, education, science and the civil service. Trade between the two grew by more than 20 per cent between 2007 and 2008, when it was worth US$10 billion (Dh37bn). Last year, the UAE was Singapore's second largest trading partner in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. The UAE's foreign direct investments in the city state was worth more than $450 million in 2007, while Singaporean ventures in the emirate were worth an estimated US$5bn in 2008.

Abu Dhabi's First Gulf Bank already has an office in Singapore and heavyweights such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Mubadala Development Company are also looking to establishing a presence. In May 2008, Mubadala acquired the Singapore-based oil and gas exploration and production company, Pearl Energy, which, since 2002, has assembled a portfolio of exploration, development and production assets in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. "Singapore could be a platform for Abu Dhabi for investments in China or Vietnam and the rest of the region surrounding Singapore, because Singapore has the experience," the senior official said. "Singapore has been very active in China," he added. "So, for a newcomer like Abu Dhabi, you either start from scratch or you come into an existing relationship that you have and you use this as a channel of entry, either through partnerships with some companies or by simply learning from them."

Abu Dhabi and Singaporean companies have been involved in several prominent joint ventures, including Capitala, a property company formed by Mubadala and the Singaporean property developer Capital Land in 2008. Capitala's maiden project is a $6bn Abu Dhabi development with residential, commercial, sport and leisure facilities. Abu Dhabi officials have also been involved in discussions with their Singapore counterparts about developing strategic oil storage facilities in Asia.

"There have been discussions and we're still exploring," the senior official said. "When you have an increase in production you want to store in a place where you can quickly execute and sell the product to the delivery spot." After Singapore, Sheikh Mohammed will today start an official visit to China.

mhabboush@thenational.ae