Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has pointed out parallels in economic development between the Republic and Penang, as he wrapped up his two-day visit to Malaysian state governments.
Speaking to the media after meeting Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan said both Singapore and Penang had embarked on manufacturing high-tech products, acting as logistics hubs and building on their service industries.
"The Chief Minister explained to me how the economy has been growing well... to the point where I think demand on their logistics (services) began to pile up, but in fact that is a problem of success," he said.
He said while discussions were only preliminary, without going into specific projects, Mr Chow had told him that Penang is growing economically and faced rising infrastructure and logistics demands.
Dr Balakrishnan's meeting with members of Penang's state government is part of Singapore's efforts to engage more deeply with Malaysia's leaders at the state level.
On Thursday, he visited Kedah government officials and had an audience with the Kedah ruler, Sultan Sallehuddin Sultan Badlishah.
The minister said Singapore is also looking at future visits to state governments on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia - namely Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang - and in Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.
Dr Balakrishnan extended an invitation to Mr Chow to visit Singapore, and hosted tea with Penang state executive council members before returning home yesterday.
"Because of our common history, I think there are ways for us to exchange ideas and to collaborate on that basis," he said.
During his trip, he also met Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar, who both hail from prominent political families in Malaysia. Mr Mukhriz is the Kedah Menteri Besar and son of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Ms Nurul Izzah is MP for Permatang Pauh in Penang and daughter of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim.
When asked about his impressions from these meetings, Dr Balakrishnan said he thought both politicians wanted to be judged on their own merits and that enormous expectations had been placed on them. "We should give them the space and time to prove their worth and to make their contributions in their own unique way," he said.
Describing Mr Mukhriz, Dr Balakrishnan said: "He's a man who feels deeply and is in a hurry to uplift livelihoods and the standard of living in Kedah. And he deserves the support to do so."
Meanwhile, he characterised Ms Nurul Izzah as "young, charismatic, energetic, dynamic". "She's totally committed to making a difference, ground up. That's why she's focused on her own constituency right now," he added.
In a surprise move last December, Ms Nurul Izzah quit official posts in the PKR and said she would not serve in the federal government in any capacity, but would still represent her constituency and serve as a parliamentary backbencher.