Singapore celebrates National Day early in Kazakhstan

A performance on Singapore's past, present and future featured a cast of 20 dancers and musicians from the Republic. It was part of National Day celebrations at the Astana Expo, and saw the audience on their feet and clapping along to the music.
A performance on Singapore's past, present and future featured a cast of 20 dancers and musicians from the Republic. It was part of National Day celebrations at the Astana Expo, and saw the audience on their feet and clapping along to the music.ST PHOTO: CHANG AI-LIEN

Singapore's National Day arrived early in sunny Kazakhstan yesterday, as the Republic announced its presence at the Astana Expo-2017.

Senior Minister of State (Trade and Industry and National Development) Koh Poh Koon and Kazakh Vice-Minister of Investments and Development Yerlan Khairov were among over 350 guests and expo visitors at a flag-raising ceremony.

It was followed by a dance and musical performance on Singapore's history and achievements.

Mr Zulkifli Baharudin, Singapore's Ambassador to Kazakhstan, said ties date back to first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's first visit in 1991: "The late Mr Lee had a very close personal relationship with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Without that political capital, there wouldn't have been the economic opportunities we have now."

The expo is held in a futuristic city built specially for the event and will later be turned into a technology and financial hub.

Singapore's pavilion showcased innovations in sustainable energy such as Marina Bay's District Cooling Network and Nanyang Technological University's EcoCampus.

Dr Koh said Kazakhstan is an important partner for Singapore as a significant growing market and potential gateway to the Eurasian Economic Union and Central Asia.

Singapore is working with Kazakhstan and the union to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

"At the government level, we are working together to build sound foundations for business and investment links to grow," he said.

Mr Khairov said: "Many of Kazakhstan's reforms are based on the successful experience of Singapore."

Dr Koh also called on Kazakh Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov, Mr Khairov and Astana Mayor Asset Issekeshev.

The ministers reaffirmed close ties between both countries and reiterated their commitment to working towards the FTA.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore celebrates National Day early in Kazakhstan'. Print Edition | Subscribe