20 Feb 2012

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening

1 First of all, I would like to wish everyone a very happy and auspicious Chinese New Year. As I assumed post barely three weeks ago, this also marks the first official Singaporean event that I am attending in Shanghai. I would like to thank the Shanghai Singapore Business Association - Singapore Club Shanghai (SSBA-SCS) for inviting me to this event and giving me the opportunity to meet with you and hopefully to get to know you better today.

2 The Singaporean community in Shanghai is probably one of the largest among all overseas Singaporean communities. From the figures we can gather so far, there are about 7 thousand Singaporeans who are on long-term stay in Shanghai. Singaporeans here maintain strong ties with each other and with Singapore. Despite being thousands of miles away from home, the Singapore spirit has been kept alive in various ways - ranging from official events such as Singapore Day 2011 and the General and Presidential Elections, to Singapore restaurants serving up our favourite hawker food. Nothing gets Singaporeans more excited than food.

3 Since its inception back in 1988, the SSBA-SCS has done a commendable job of helping to build closer bonds among Singaporeans in Shanghai through various community events. I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal appreciation to the out-going executive committee for the excellent work that it has performed in the previous year and congratulate the incoming committee in advance. The incoming committee has your work cut out for you in your coming term and all of us in the Consulate General look forward to working with you to advance the collective interests of the Singaporean community in Shanghai.

4 With an increasingly globalised economy, more and more Singaporeans are moving overseas to work, live and play. A trend we first started back in the early 1990s - growing a "second" wing for the Singapore economy in the region - is not just taking root but firmly in place. It's no longer out-of-the-ordinary to expect to see young Singaporeans studying, working and living beyond Singapore's shores for an extended period of time - at least once and sometimes even more - in his or her entire lifetime. I see some familiar faces here today and some of my former classmates back in high school are moving to China for work. All the more heartwarming to see each other away from Singapore - as the Chinese saying goes: 他乡遇故知 is one of the four major causes for happiness in life.

5 But even as we encourage Singaporeans to seek their fortunes in the region, we need to put in more effort to allow Singaporeans to stay connected with home. This is not as difficult as it used to be, fortunately. We now have a huge concentration of Singapore businesses in Shanghai, and many Singaporean brands are easily available. I have found it relatively easy to look for Singaporean food when I feel homesick, and happily enough, was able to catch a couple of Singaporean TV programmes on local channels!

6 China is a huge country. An editorial in the China Daily two weeks ago described China as a commonwealth of First and Third Worlds, with disparate local conditions. Given the complexity of the local operating environment, it is all the more important for the Singaporean community to stay united and work together. This is particularly so in Shanghai, given the large concentration of Singaporeans here and the ever-growing business opportunities in eastern China, as well as the competition we face from other international investors.

7 I understand that more than half of Singapore's cumulative investments in China are sited in Shanghai and the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui which come under the Consulate General's ambit. So Liane and I, and our staff, are here to help you in whatever way we can. It's an exciting operating environment, but not without its fair share of challenges. And in a huge place like this, many will agree that it is more effective to hunt in a pack than to operate alone.

8 I wish the incoming Committee well. There is more work to be done, and challenges lie ahead. It's a journey we are prepared to embark together with you. And so long as we work together, I'm sure it will be a productive and fruitful journey. I hope to have many more opportunities to meet up with all of you during my time in Shanghai. I wish you all a pleasant evening and offer you my best wishes for the Year of the Dragon!

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