Remarks by President Halimah Yacob at the Reception for Overseas Singaporeans in the Netherlands

Minister Masagos

Ambassador Jaya Ratnam

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Tan Wu Meng

Members of Parliament Alex Yam, Vikram Nair and Cheryl Chan

My fellow Singaporeans,

 

Good evening. Welcome to the reception organised by Ambassador Jaya and his hardworking staff. It is always a delight to meet Singaporeans overseas. This is my second State Visit and my first outside of ASEAN – my first State Visit was to Brunei.

I am honoured to be the first President of Singapore to make a State Visit to the Netherlands. Our kind hosts His Majesty King Willem-Alexanderr and Her Majesty Queen Máxima are old friends of Singapore who previously visited Singapore in 2013 with then-Queen Beatrix.

The friendship between Singapore and the Netherlands is strong and longstanding. I believe most of us would have heard of Dr Albert Winsemius, the late Dutch economist who served as Singapore’s Chief Economic Advisor from 1961. He was sent by UNDP to help Singapore. We were, at that time, a fledgling country. He stayed on until 1984. On Tuesday, I was fortunate to meet his children – Pieter and Ankie – who recounted the times their father spent in Singapore. They also gave me a copy of the transcripts of meetings Dr Winsemius had with Mr Lee Kuan Yew to be passed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore has good relations with the Royals. Princess Beatrix attended the State Banquet, which I am told is a rare occurrence. His Majesty King Willem-Alexanderr and Her Majesty Queen Máxima spared no efforts in making the Singapore delegation feel welcomed. It is these people-to-people ties that we treasure.

Economically, the Dutch are our natural partners; Singapore and the Netherlands are both global- and practical-minded. Today, there are more than 1,600 Dutch companies in Singapore. With more than S$100 billion worth of investments in Singapore, the Netherlands is Singapore’s largest EU investor and third largest trading partner in the EU. This visit has helped strengthen the foundations of these ties. The six MOUs and agreements that were signed will boost collaborations between the two countries. The accompanying business delegations also had good meetings and many have identified potential new opportunities, especially in innovation. The Netherlands has 10 innovation hubs of which I visited some including Prodock and Eindhoven.

What binds Singapore and the Netherlands together is the fact that we are small countries and we are both concerned about similar issues including climate change, rising sea levels and food security. We are also working hard to remain competitive – the Netherlands is ranked second on the Global Innovation Index. There is a lot we can learn from. This morning, I sat in a discussion about the Triple Helix Model of innovation. It is similar to what we have in Singapore in a certain sense but we need to institutionalise it in our culture.

We will need to rely on you to deepen and strengthen our ties with the Dutch. They are warm and friendly people. So are we. The Dutch already think well of Singaporeans. Your role is extremely crucial because you interact daily with them. Help them see the personal side of Singapore so that it opens up more collaborative opportunities for the two countries. It is also the people-to-people relations that will deepen and strengthen Singapore’s relations with the Netherlands.

Thank you once again for making the effort to attend tonight’s reception. It is a pleasure meeting all of you. Enjoy the evening.