Norway sets example for small states, says President Tony Tan

President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre), Mrs Mary Tan and Non-Resident Ambassador to Norway Ng Ser Miang at a touch pool at the Polaria Museum in Tromso, Norway. The museum showcases Arctic animals and habitats.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam (centre), Mrs Mary Tan and Non-Resident Ambassador to Norway Ng Ser Miang at a touch pool at the Polaria Museum in Tromso, Norway. The museum showcases Arctic animals and habitats.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

He notes that it is forward-looking and plays an important role on the world stage

Winters in Norway are well-known for extreme temperatures below freezing point and months with no sunshine.

Yet, Norwegians believe there is no such thing as "harsh weather", said President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday as he wrapped up his state visit to the country.

Recounting a phrase commonly heard in Norway, he said: "They say, 'there's really no such thing as harsh weather, all you have is bad clothing'. If you have the right preparation, you can look after yourself in any circumstance."

This attitude underscores the resilience of the small state and is an example for other small countries like Singapore, said Dr Tan.

Wrapping up his six-day trip, Dr Tan said Norway's example "reinforces the need for countries like Singapore to be forward-looking and continually plan ahead for the benefit of future generations".

The President is the first Singapore head of state to make a state visit to Norway. He was hosted by King Harald V and Queen Sonja. He also met Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Speaking to Singapore reporters yesterday, he said both countries share common interests. "As small countries, both Singapore and Norway have common interests in upholding a rules-based international order, and working with organisations such as the United Nations to accomplish this," he said.

Norway also plays an important role on the global stage despite its small population of over five million, and is a leader on climate change and in research and innovation.

Like Norway, Singapore is not just concerned about the present, but also about the future, he said.

This is reflected in both countries' emphasis on good governance, especially in the judicious management of reserves, said Dr Tan, who is custodian of Singa- pore's reserves as President.

"I think both Norway and Singapore have a common philosophy, to look at our assets and the returns on them on a long-term basis, rather than try and achieve short-term gains," he said, holding up Norway as a model in managing its wealth derived from oil revenues.

Turning to economic cooperation, Dr Tan said Norwegian companies can use Singapore as a gateway to Asia. He said there are opportunities for Singapore firms in Norway too, such as in the oil and gas sector.

As part of his visit, 12 agreements were signed between businesses and institutes of both countries.

Another area of cooperation is in the field of climate change and Arctic affairs, said Dr Tan.

Norway's interest in reducing pollution worldwide makes it a valuable partner for Singapore in tackling issues such as the haze, he said.

Pointing to how Norway is a "leading advocate" for environmental issues, Dr Tan said: "They have always tried to make themselves relevant to the world,which is what Singapore also tries to do, because as small nations, we have to earn our living in the world."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Norway sets example for small states, says President Tan'. Print Edition | Subscribe