Statement by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Second Minister for Education Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman at the Virtual 20th Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers Meeting

17 December 2020

1 I would like to first commend the UAE for keeping up the momentum for IORA amidst these challenging circumstances through virtual engagements with Member States and Dialogue Partners.


2 Singapore also welcomes France as the latest member of IORA.


3 COVID-19 has a huge impact on all of us, and disrupted global economic activity.


4 In particular, the aviation and maritime sectors have been adversely affected by the global economic downturn.


5 According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or ICAO, world air passenger traffic has fallen by up to 60% in 2020.


6 The shipping industry, which carries more than 80% of world merchandise trade by volume, has taken a similar hit as the World Trade Organisation, or WTO, forecasts a 9.2% fall in the volume of world merchandise trade by the end of 2020.


7 This has reinforced the need for international cooperation on various fronts to strengthen our capacities and better prepare our countries to face future uncertainties.


8 In line with the UAE’s theme for its IORA Chairmanship, I would like to highlight two important areas IORA can enhance cooperation in. These would enable us to promote a shared destiny and path to prosperity in the Indian Ocean.


9 First, keeping supply chains open and building resilience.


10 There were disruptions around the world to food and medical supplies as operations at some ports and airports ground to a halt. This demonstrated the importance of global supply chain connectivity, building mutual trust and keeping borders open.


11 COVID-19 has also highlighted the importance of digitalisation which has allowed us to transcend physical borders and access new markets. This emerging area of growth will drive innovation and strengthen supply chains in the years to come. 


12 Second, we must continue to support multilateralism.


13 The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of vaccine multilateralism and the need for greater cooperation on the resumption of air and maritime connectivity. This has taken on a renewed urgency, given the positive progress on vaccine development.


14 It was heartening to see innovative forms of multilateral cooperation created in response to the pandemic. One example is the COVID-19 global vaccines access or COVAX Facility, which has more than 150 countries engaged in ensuring fair and equitable access to vaccines.


15 Singapore was an early supporter of these initiatives and we encourage more countries to join these efforts.


16 As an international community, we have also gleaned many learning points from COVID-19, including how we can be better prepared for the next pandemic.


17 Together, we can leverage our shared experiences and work towards a safe, successful and stronger global economy.


18 In conclusion, even as we continue to grapple with the current challenges, we have to continue to invest in our people.


19 Singapore was happy to have worked closely with the IORA Secretariat to convene a Public Finance Management course virtually from 19 to 28 October 2020, despite travel restrictions. The course was well-attended and well-received, with 28 participants from 10 Member States.


20 Given the positive response, I am pleased to announce that Singapore is planning a second virtual capacity building course for the IORA Secretariat and Member States on Project Management in 2021.


21 With an alignment of priorities and commitment, I am optimistic that we can emerge from this pandemic to a brighter and more resilient future for our people and for the world.



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