On August 9, 2014, the Republic of Singapore will mark 49 years of independence. It is a day that all Singaporeans are proud of. It is also a day that we are happy to celebrate with our friends. The Kingdom of Cambodia is one such friend. Back in 1965, Cambodia was one of the first countries to recognise our young and fledgling nation. It was a vote of confidence in us.
Today, Singapore and Cambodia continue to enjoy strong, friendly and multifaceted relations. Political ties are warm and reinforced by regular high-level exchanges. Our economic links are substantial. Singapore was Cambodia’s sixth largest trading partner with about S$1.6 billion (US$1.3 billion) in total trade last year. Singapore’s cumulative investments for the past 20 years have totalled US$786 million, making us the 10th-largest foreign investor in Cambodia. The Singapore business community is active in manufacturing, logistics, finance, trading, property development, retail, education, energy and hospitality. More Singaporean companies are becoming interested in Cambodia.
Extensive people-to-people ties underpin our relations. Forty weekly flights between Singapore and Cambodia have facilitated visits and tourism. There were almost 58,000 visitors from Singapore last year and we expect that figure to grow. The Singaporean government also provides scholarships to deserving Cambodian students to study in Singapore at the secondary and tertiary levels. Many Cambodian students have excelled academically and enriched our institutions with their different perspectives.
Cambodians want to progress and develop their country. These are sentiments that Singapore understands and has tried to support. An ongoing project to help address development gaps in Southeast Asia is the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI). This initiative was launched by Singapore in 2000 for human resource development in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Over the last 14 years, Singapore has pledged about US$135 million towards these ends. The IAI has enabled us to establish the Cambodia-Singapore Training Centre in Phnom Penh to provide courses for Cambodian officials in diverse areas like public administration, trade, tourism, information technology, civil aviation, health, environment, urban planning and English. In tandem, Singapore has also invited Cambodian officials for training courses in Singapore to share our development experience. Almost 11,000 Cambodian officials have participated in these courses.
Regionally, Singapore and Cambodia continue to work together in ASEAN. One shared interest is the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. Once implemented, the AEC will transform ASEAN into a regional market with free flow of goods, services, skilled labour and capital. This integration will buttress the region’s economic competitiveness for years to come. All ASEAN members, including Cambodia and Singapore, stand to benefit from the AEC.
Finally, I would like to thank the Kingdom of Cambodia for the friendship that it has shown towards Singapore. Let me also thank all Cambodians for the welcome that you have bestowed upon the Singapore community in Cambodia. I am confident that our countries will continue to cooperate closely bilaterally and within ASEAN. Let me end by wishing all Cambodians and Singaporeans good health and best wishes.