ESM Goh Chok Tong meets Myanmar president, witnesses signing of training agreement

Myanmar's President Htin Kyaw (right) with Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during their meeting at the presidential house in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on March 15, 2017.
Myanmar's President Htin Kyaw (right) with Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during their meeting at the presidential house in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on March 15, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong oversaw the signing of an agreement on Wednesday (March 15) that will facilitate the handover of the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) to Myanmar over three years.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the Myanmar government will gradually take over the funding and management of the Yangon institute, while Singapore will continue to provide technical and management skills that will help staff there operate independently.

Mr Goh, who arrived in Naypyitaw on Tuesday for a three-day visit, called on President Htin Kyaw in the capital as well as its military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday.

U Htin Kyaw "expressed appreciation for Singapore's steadfast friendship", while Mr Goh "reaffirmed Singapore's continued support for Myanmar's development", said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

"They also discussed Myanmar's development challenges and growth strategies," it said.

During Mr Goh's meeting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, they discussed how Singapore could continue to support Myanmar's development, the statement added.

Mr Goh was accompanied by Singapore legislators Zaqy Mohamad and Joan Pereira, as well as other foreign ministry officials.

On Thursday, he will meet the chairman of the Myanmar Parliament's assessment of legal affairs and special issues commission, Thura U Shwe Mann, and have lunch with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar is emerging from half a century of military rule after the handover of power to the National League for Democracy (NLD) party-led administration last year.

NLD leader Suu Kyi, constitutionally barred from presidency, heads the government through a specially created post of state counsellor.

Singapore is the second largest investor in Myanmar, after China, with a cumulative US$15.7 billion (S$22.1 billion) worth of investments as at December concentrated in sectors such as hospitality, property development and utilities.

The SMVTI in Yangon, modelled after Singapore's Institute of Technical Education, offers courses in hospitality and tourism, electrical skills and electronics, facilities management and engineering services, and also matches graduates with jobs.

Its governing board is co-chaired by Singapore Education Minister Ong Ye Kung and his Myanmar counterpart Myo Thein Gyi.

More than 700 students have graduated so far and 66 per cent have found jobs quickly after graduation. Ten of its top graduates are currently doing internships in Singapore.

Under various technical assistance programmes between the two countries, more than 13,000 Myanmar government officials have undergone training in areas such as English language, economic development, and public administration.

In December last year, visa requirements were lifted between the two countries. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also announced last year that both countries will start discussions on a bilateral investment treaty.

tanhy@sph.com.sg