TRADE WINDS

Oman 2015 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

HE Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State, Minister of Home Affairs, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, on the enhanced partnership in effect.

HE Masagos Zulkifli
BIOGRAPHY
HE Masagos Zulkifli graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1988 and a Master’s in Electrical Engineering in 1994 from the National University of Singapore. He began his career with Singapore Telecommunications Limited in 1988. He was awarded a SingTel Postgraduate Scholarship and graduated with an MBA from the University of Southern California in 1995. While at Singapore Telecommunications Limited, he had international postings to Ujung Padang, Sulawesi, Indonesia and to Sydney, Australia. He was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of SingTel Global Offices. In 2006, he left Singapore Telecommunications Limited for public office. He became a Member of Parliament in the May 2006 General Election. In June 2006, he was appointed Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education. In April 2008, he was appointed concurrently Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs. In November 2010, he was promoted to Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Home Affairs. He was appointed Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 2011, before becoming Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August 2012.

I had the pleasure to visit the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, Muscat, from April 5-9, 2014. I was immediately drawn to the vibrancy of the city. I was also impressed by Oman's dedication to preserving its traditional heritage while developing its cities.

Singapore is committed to growing its “Enhanced Partnership" with Oman. Our bilateral relations continue to deepen as we look forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2015. Our links are deeply rooted in history. The Jewel of Muscat dhow on display at the Maritime Experiential Museum in Sentosa, and the redeveloped Muscat Street are evidence of how far in history this relationship extends. Singapore and Oman have had regular exchanges of high level visits in recent years. The then President S. R. Nathan's State Visit in 2009 was followed by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean's visit in September 2010. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam also visited Oman in May 2012 and 2013. These visits have built a rapport and familiarity between our leaders and enabled bilateral cooperation to flourish.

A key pillar of our “Enhanced Partnership" is strong institutional links. The Singapore-Oman Joint Committee anchors the broad engagement between our countries and serves as the key forum for exchanging public sector expertise. The Singapore-Oman Business Council, led by the Singapore Business Federation and the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is an important networking platform for Singaporean and Omani companies to enhance business links. Economic ties between Singapore and Oman have grown steadily. In 2013, Singapore traded $2.07 billion worth of goods with Oman, while Singaporean firms have increased their presence in the country. Singaporean firms have made inroads into Oman's ICT sector, and are looking for investment opportunities in areas such as logistics, airport services, and fisheries.

Singaporean businesses are also participating in Oman's infrastructure projects. For example, Sembcorp has built an Independent Water and Power Plant (IWPP) in Salalah and will be developing a Centralized Utilities Facilities for the Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Singaporean companies stand ready to continue contributing to Oman's economic development. In particular, Duqm holds much potential as a greenfield project. The entry into force of the Gulf Cooperation Council-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (GSFTA) provides another excellent platform for the strengthening of economic ties between Singapore and Oman, as well as the larger GCC region. Oman can be a gateway for Singapore's trade with the GCC. Likewise, Omani businesses can use Singapore as a springboard to reach the ASEAN region. The reduced tariffs of goods entering Oman will have a positive impact on the volume of trade. Oman has always been a strong supporter of the GSFTA. Singapore looks forward to working together with Oman to successfully implement the agreement.

Oman has all the right ingredients. Many Omanis are fluent in English, and motivated to succeed. There is much that Singapore can learn from Oman. We should complement our excellent bilateral and economic relations with more people-to-people exchanges in areas such as performing arts, education, and tourism. This will ensure an enduring friendship between our countries.