Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation's de facto leader, is looking to Singapore to help the fast-emerging economy achieve prosperity, which she hopes will improve the country's political unity.
"Politics and business cannot be separated, particularly at this time when we are trying to make our country not just united, but prosperous. Unless we can maintain peace, we cannot maintain prosperity," she said yesterday.
"For that, we look to you to advise us, and to make our country vibrant not just politically but economically," she added.
Ms Suu Kyi was speaking at the start of a three-day visit here, at the IE Singapore Global Conversations business dialogue held at the Shangri-La Hotel.
She noted that her country faced a challenge in "national reconciliation and peace", saying "economics can help". "Prosperity will help our people understand that united, we progress together."
CATCHING UP WITH S'PORE
I think we have to change that a bit - in 20 years' time, Myanmar will have overtaken Singapore. I hope you will help us to do that, because success in one part of the region means success throughout the region.
MYANMAR'S STATE COUNSELLOR AUNG SAN SUU KYI, on the two countries' reversal of roles compared with 1965.
She said Myanmar can draw lessons to resolve its political issues from business. "If we wish to be a strong and prosperous nation, we have to learn to give, to compromise, to engage in dialogue. And this is, I think, where business can teach us, even on the political front."
"Doing business means compromise. Doing business means engaging. Doing business means listening to one another," she added.
Ms Suu Kyi said that a new investment law in Myanmar, passed in October, is meant to be business-friendly, assuring businessmen that "your investments will be given security".
She urged businesses to invest to create jobs. "We think our human capital will be very attractive to Singapore," she said, adding that vocational training has been key in its education policies.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner also recounted that at the beginning of Singapore's independence, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said that 20 years hence, Singapore would have caught up with Myanmar.
"I think we have to change that a bit - in 20 years' time, Myanmar will have overtaken Singapore," she said with a smile. "I hope you will help us to do that, because success in one part of the region means success throughout the region."
Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang, who gave the welcome speech, noted that Singapore was Myanmar's top foreign investor in the last fiscal year, with investments amounting to US$4.3 billion (S$6.1 billion).
With the agreement to ease visa requirements between the two countries taking effect today, Mr Lim said he hoped to see stronger air connectivity between Myanmar and Singapore, which will further facilitate the flow of trade and investment.
Thirteen business leaders from Singapore met Ms Suu Kyi in a closed-door session. One of them, Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman S. S. Teo, told The Straits Times: "One of her priorities is national reconciliation. She is very firm on anti-corruption, so there may be some pain initially, but it's good for the country."
He added that SBF is proposing setting up a joint business council with its Myanmar counterpart so that they can discuss issues regularly.