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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

The UAE and Singapore: two countries with a lot in common

The two countries share a reputation for safety, luxury and also have the same electrical sockets

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed meets Halimah Yacob, president of Singapore, during his official visit to the country. Courtesy Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Twitter
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed meets Halimah Yacob, president of Singapore, during his official visit to the country. Courtesy Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Twitter

They are separated by an ocean and nearly 6,000 kilometres, but the UAE and Singapore have more in common than one may think.

This week, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, embarked on a tour of South Korea and Singapore in which he met the leaders of two of the world’s most developed nations.

It is not hard for someone living in the UAE to feel at home in Singapore.

Its futuristic skyline is reminiscent of Dubai’s, and Abu Dhabi’s unmissable Gate Towers is the double of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort, with its three towers topped by the world’s largest cantilevered platform.

Both structures are symbolic of the modern, forward-thinking economies that built them. According to the Passport Index, the UAE passport is now the most powerful in the world, giving its citizens visa-free access to 168 countries.

Who did it overtake? Singapore, which long held the top spot and has now moved down to third place with a score of 165 countries.

Both countries also have a highly diverse population.

Like the UAE, a large percentage of Singapore’s inhabitants are not citizens – about 25 per cent.

The island city state is predominantly ethnic Chinese, with Malays and Indians also major population groups. It has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. While Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is widely used and spoken, including in the court system, where Hindi will also soon have official status. This diversity of language, culture and even cuisine is a reflection of the recent history of both countries.

Like the seven emirates of the UAE, Singapore was in the past subject to British control of its foreign affairs.

One legacy of this British presence is that both countries use electric plugs that have three flat rectangular pins, known as Type G.

Arabs, mostly of Yemeni origin, settled in Singapore from the 1820s and played a major role in the colonial economy. They number about 10,000 today.

Singapore is one of the world’s most densely populated places, and both countries experienced enormous population growth over the past 50 years.

Singapore’s population has risen from 1.6 million in the 1960s to nearly six million today, while the UAE’s growth has been even more dramatic, from about 250,000 in 1971 to 9.3 million, according to the most recent government figures.

In economic terms, both countries have a similar GDP.

According to the World Bank, the UAE ranked 29th in the world for GPD in 2017, at $382.57 billion (Dh1.4 trillion), with Singapore 36th at $323.9bn

Both countries see themselves as natural transport and trading centres for the 21st century.

Like Jebel Ali and Khalifa Port, the Port of Singapore is crucial to the country’s economic well-being.

The UAE is Singapore’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East.

Where the future is concerned, both countries are placing increasing importance on developing new technologies, with Singapore and Dubai seeking to become the world’s first smart cities.

In the eyes of the world, Singapore and the UAE are often thought of as desirable places to live and visit.

Singapore Airlines is regularly voted the best in the world, but faces frequent challenges from Emirates and Etihad.

Both countries rank highly where safety and security are concerned, and have a reputation for luxury, comfort and, of course, shopping.

Updated: February 28, 2019 04:59 PM

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