Speech by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, at The Lunch Hosted In Honour of Prime Minister Bounnhang Vorachith of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LAO PDR), 1 November 2001

Your Excellency

Prime Minister BounNhang Vorachith

Madame Khammeung Vorachith


Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government and people of Singapore, I warmly welcome you, Mr Prime Minister, your wife, and your delegation to Singapore.

Relations between Singapore and Laos have grown steadily. There is close cooperation both bilaterally and within ASEAN. Your visit today marks another step forward in the building of ties between our two countries.

Mr Prime Minister

When I visited Laos in March 1997, your country was about to join ASEAN.

Compared to that period, the challenges facing ASEAN today are far more complex and daunting. The regional financial crisis had adversely affected several ASEAN countries, creating economic turmoil and political problems. Investors and MNCs have also shifted their attention to the more lucrative markets of Northeast Asia, especially China.

Then, just when we were beginning to recover from the regional financial crisis, we were hit by the global economic slowdown beginning this year, and now, by the horrific terrorist attacks of 11 September.

Indeed, because of 11 September, the global economy is likely to see its most severe deceleration since the 1973 oil crisis. Every country will be affected, including in East Asia. The latest World Bank half-yearly regional update predicts that growth in the East Asia region is likely to fall by 2.7 percentage points in 2001 relative to 2000, and will recover only marginally in 2002.

The 11 September attacks also represent a new form of terrorism that threatens our security. The fight against it will be long and difficult.

In this regard, I am glad that ASEAN countries have pledged strong cooperation to combat terrorism. In particular, we must work together to guard against terrorists and extremist elements establishing themselves in our region.

We must redouble our efforts in these difficult times to enhance ASEAN integration. United and integrated, ASEAN will be a vast market of 500 million consumers. Only then will we be able to remain attractive to international investors.

Singapore will continue to work closely with Laos in these efforts towards greater ASEAN integration. To this end, I am happy to note that Singapore's technical cooperation with Laos under the Singapore Cooperation Programme has expanded since it started in 1994. More than 7800 officials from the Lao PDR have undergone training under the Programme, ranging from English language to public management and information technology. The Lao-Singapore Training Centre, which has already conducted a course on WTO accession and legal issues, is in fact opening its office in Vientiane today. We hope to play a part in your achieving theLaos will achieve its target of lifting Laos intojoining the ranks of developing countries by 2020.

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

May I now invite you to join me in a toast:

to the good health of Prime Minister BounNhang Vorachith and Madame Khammeung Vorachith;

to the prosperity and progress of the Lao People's Democratic Republic; and

to the friendship between our two countries.


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