PM Lee: Singapore, Mongolia have common outlook

PM Lee meeting Singaporeans at a reception in Mongolia. Businessmen from Singapore and Mongolia, as well as Mongolians who had studied in Singapore, were also at the reception.
PM Lee meeting Singaporeans at a reception in Mongolia. Businessmen from Singapore and Mongolia, as well as Mongolians who had studied in Singapore, were also at the reception. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore, with a land area of 719 sq km, is a tiny nation compared to Mongolia, which spreads out across 1.56 million sq km.

But both nations are sandwiched by much bigger neighbours and are fully aware of that, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the start of his official visit to Mongolia yesterday.

He made the observation at a reception held in the capital city Ulaanbaatar for Singaporeans living and working in Mongolia.

 
 

It was a point derived from a conversation with a Mongolian leader visiting Singapore more than 10 years ago, he said. "I explained to him that Singapore is a small country with two big neighbours, and he said Mongolia is the same."

With this clear perspective of the way the world is, both know they not only have to make friends with their neighbours, but also with countries further afield and to cooperate in a globalised world, he added.

Mr Lee's four-day trip to the country marks the first official visit by a Singapore prime minister to landlocked Mongolia, which lies between Russia and China.

Mongolia has about 3 million people, while Singapore has a resident population of 3.9 million.

Today, Mr Lee will meet his counterpart, Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Speaker of Parliament Miyeegombo Enkhbold.

At the reception, Mr Lee said Singapore would like to increase trade with Mongolia. Two-way trade totalled $64 million last year.

Singapore's non-resident Am- bassador to Mongolia Yip Wei Kiat is optimistic, saying there is growing interest among Singapore businesses in Mongolia.

Singapore's cumulative direct investment in Mongolia was $143 million as at end-2014.

Businessmen of both countries and Mongolians who attended Singapore's technical assistance programmes and studied in Singapore were also at the reception.

 

Mongolians studying in Singapore is to be encouraged, Mr Lee said, adding that Singaporeans may study in Mongolian institutions one day, and "we will get to know one another better".

Accountant Tsoggeral Davaajargal, 33, who studied English and hospitality in Singapore for four years, said she was attracted by Singapore's education system.

About 20 Singaporeans, most of whom are in teaching, live in Mongolia.

Ms Tan Yee Ling, who runs her own English-language school, moved to Ulaanbaatar in 2005, drawn by the vast expanses of the country while on vacation.

Said the 41-year-old: "I first visited Mongolia in 1996 and went horse riding in the grasslands. There were wide open spaces, no fences, blue skies. I really like the feeling of freedom here."

During his trip, Mr Lee will attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Summit on July 15 and 16.

He said Singapore has a special interest in the inter-governmental dialoguebecause former Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong had helped get it started.

Asem marks its 20th anniversary this year, and Mr Lee said: "We are happy to see the baby which we started is now growing up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'PM Lee: Singapore, Mongolia have common outlook'. Print Edition | Subscribe