S’pore, KL to push for joint ventures

Anwar: They will help to strengthen relations
SINGAPORE and Malaysia will encourage their private sectors to invest jointly in third countries as a means of strengthening the bond between the two nations, visiting Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday.

At a press conference just before he attended a dinner at the Istana hosted by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong last night, Datuk Seri Anwar said he had discussed the matter with Trade and Industry Minister Yeo Cheow Tong earlier in the day.

He described the move as “very much welcome”.

He said he would bring it up with the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry on his return while Mr Yeo will tackle it here.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who is also Malaysia’s Finance Minister, said he supported the idea of both governments participating in joint investments abroad too.

“An interlocking of both government and private sector initiative would do well in ensuring lasting relations and strengthening the bilateral friendship between the two countries,” he said.

Looking relaxed despite completing a packed two-day programme, the Malaysian leader said there was still room for improvement in the relationship.

He spoke about other matters which would help in this.

One was reaching an agreement on the Growth Triangle. He said that he and Prime Minister Goh had agreed that ministerial-level meetings be held to promulgate some quick guidelines on the framework for co-operation in the zone.

Said Datuk Seri Anwar: “We have to admit that the progress has been somewhat slow in the past. But that is the past. We are committed to proceed.”

Though no time-frame had been set to produce the guidelines, the matter was viewed with “great urgency”, he said.

Another tie-up was the proposed second link, a bridge, between the two countries. He said this also figured in his discussions with Mr Goh and all outstanding major and minor issues surrounding the project had been settled.

“A final meeting will probably be held during the first week of February and hopefully we can sign the agreement the same month so that the project can proceed immediately,” he said.

He also assured Singapore businessmen that the Malaysian government would look into the problems they encountered when investing across the Causeway.

Singapore businessmen could invest in almost every sector in the country, he said. “Manufacturing, tourism, you name it. That is up to the private sector. We are an open economy.”

Asked how he felt about Singapore businessmen investing in China, he said he had no problems with this and still welcomed them to Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese bumiputras were also investing in China, he said and queried: “Why do we question the decision of the private sector to invest in China?”

Datuk Seri Anwar, who was here with his wife, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah, at the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister Brigadier-General (NS) Lee Hsien Loong, said BG (NS) Lee and Finance Minister Richard Hu had responded “positively” to his invitation to visit Malaysia.

He was also keen on ensuring the close ties permeate down to the lower levels. Umno youth would send a team to Singapore in response to a recent visit by the PAP Youth team led by Health and Information Minister Brig-Gen (NS) George Yeo, said Datuk Seri Anwar, who is also deputy president of Umno.

During his visit, he also met Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Foreign Affairs and Law Minister S. Jayakumar. He left for Malaysia last night.

‘Excellent ties’ —————-

‘The relations are excellent. Really. I am not being exceedingly polite. But I think I am very comfortable. I choose to be frank and forthright in my views. I asked provocative questions and this was reciprocated in the same manner.’
– Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, responding to a question on his relations with Singapore’s political leaders.

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