PM: S'pore will pay it forward in Commonwealth

Republic has benefited from being part of grouping and will share its experiences with fellow members, he says

Singapore has benefited from being part of the Commonwealth and will pay it forward by sharing its developmental experiences with fellow countries in the grouping, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee made the pledge ahead of the biennial Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting (Chogm), which he will attend this week in London.

Writing in the Chogm 2018 Report, he said Singapore faced grave social and economic problems when it joined the Commonwealth in October 1965, a couple of months after gaining independence on Aug 9.

The regional situation was also unstable then, with the Vietnam War brewing and South-east Asian countries at odds with one another.

"The odds were against our survival, but we pulled through. We were deeply grateful to the friends who came to our help in times of need, many of whom were in the Commonwealth," Mr Lee wrote.

Singapore is glad it can now help other countries in the Commonwealth through technical assistance programmes, he added.

Mr Lee will be among the leaders of 53 member nations gathering for the Chogm Summit, hosted by London this year.

The meetings run from Thursday to Friday.

To kick off the summit, a series of forums and other events is being held, which started yesterday.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will attend the Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Small States today and the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers' Meeting tomorrow.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the foreign ministers will discuss issues of concern to member states and review developments in the Commonwealth.

In his article, Mr Lee noted the similarities between Chogm and Asean, which Singapore chairs this year.

Singapore is working with fellow Asean members and partners on initiatives to strengthen resilience against such threats as terrorism, cybercrime and climate change, and to help Asean economies innovate and use technology, he said.

These aspirations dovetail with this year's Chogm themes of security, prosperity, fairness and sustainability, he noted.

He added that, among other things, both groupings uphold an open, rules-based multilateral system which allows every country to prosper. "There is therefore much we can do together to create a better world for ourselves and future generations."

Sustainable development is a key theme at this year's Chogm.

Singapore, Mr Lee said, is committed to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

And this year, it will undertake its first Voluntary National Review at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The Prime Minister also said Singapore is sharing its approaches and expertise in this area with fellow Commonwealth countries.

It will be done through capacity building courses for their officials in such areas as disaster management, and enhancing infrastructure for national development.

"We hope this sharing of experiences and exchange of ideas will continue to benefit future generations in the Commonwealth," Mr Lee said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2018, with the headline 'PM: S'pore will pay it forward in Commonwealth'. Print Edition | Subscribe