SPEECH BY MR GOH CHOK TONG, SENIOR MINISTER, AT THE 4TH RUSSIA-SINGAPORE BUSINESS FORUM
First, let me extend a warm welcome to all our Russian and other friends from abroad. We are happy to have you with us today at the 4th Russia-Singapore Business Forum (RSBF).
...Some analysts have suggested that the recent sustained economic growth of China, India and Brazil compared with Russia's sluggishness means that the BRIC economic grouping no longer makes sense. I disagree...The fact is that Russia has come a long way in the last two decades. I first visited Moscow in 1990, one year before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The Soviet-era centrally planned economy was then trying to adjust to the perestroika policies of Gorbachev. I saw a Russia in transition, whose future and prospects were uncertain. When I visited Moscow again last year, I was greeted by a very different Russia. I met a new breed of politicians, businessmen, and thought leaders – Russians who were well-travelled, confident and enterprising. There was vibrancy and optimism everywhere – in the streets, in the malls, in the theatres. I saw a new Russia poised to achieve more.
...If Russia continues to maintain a long term vision of its development, I am confident that it will emerge from the crisis renewed, stronger and more competitive.... It is only in recent years that Singapore and Russia have stepped up our engagement, but we have since made quick progress. Our linkages now span a wide spectrum, including trade, business, R&D and tourism. Since year 2000, bilateral trade has increased more than three-fold, and continued to grow healthily through the financial crisis.
But we can do more together. To diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil and gas, Russia will be looking to internationalise its economy, especially to tap into opportunities in emerging Asia. With our strong connections to the region, Russia can make use of Singapore as its springboard to reach out to this dynamic market.
...Some 25 Russian scientists are already engaged in research collaboration at our Agency for Science, Technology and Research (or A*STAR). One of them, Dr Dmitry Bulavin, recently discovered how the ageing process could potentially be delayed through the suppression of a certain protein. We welcome more Russian researchers and companies to explore such R&D collaborations in Singapore.
More than a thousand Russians now live and work in Singapore. Some individuals bring with them their passion to build bridges, like Evgeny Tugolukov, President of the Russia-Singapore Friendship Society, and Alexander Blinov, President of the Russian Club. Their organisations help the Russian community in Singapore feel at home here and contribute to people-to-people relationships. Others like Ms Julia Sherstyuk use their social entrepreneurial skills to achieve the same objective. She founded Singapore's first magazine dedicated to raising awareness of Russia in Singapore and vice versa. And Singapore benefits from the musical talent of Alexander Souptel, Leader of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and Guennadi Mouzyka, its Principal Double Bass. Both of them have helped to bring our orchestra to a higher level.
These are just a few of the many Russians who live in Singapore today as students, professionals, scientists, businessmen, professors and entrepreneurs. We welcome more Russians to do the same. Likewise, I urge Singaporeans to go and learn more about Russia, a vast country with rich history, culture and business opportunities.