Botswana, S’pore can develop beneficial ties : PM

SINGAPORE and Botswana in southern Africa could benefit from each other’s experience despite differences in geography, economy and social structure, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said last night.

Speaking at a dinner at the Istana hosted in honour of the President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, Mr Goh said that both countries had come to appreciate the need for regional stability and cooperation after undergoing a period of uncertainty.

Now they were facing new opportunities instead of threats, he said.

Mr Goh said that in Singapore’s case, “the rapid growth of East and South-east Asia provides us with ample opportunities for trade, investment and rewarding economic ventures”.

“But we do not confine our interests to just our neighbourhood, though obviously it will command our greater attention,” the Prime Minister said.

He revealed that Singapore had started a “partnership for progress” with Botswana via a modest technical-training programme in education and productivity.

“We place great emphasis on human-resource training, just as you do.

“We are glad to share with our African brothers our experience in this and other areas,” Mr Goh said.

Turning to Sir Ketumile’s visit, Mr Goh said that it had raised bilateral relations to a new level.

“Economic and trade relations will get stronger as our officials and businessmen learn more about business opportunities in our two countries. New areas of cooperation will emerge.”

The Botswanian President is in Singapore on a four-day visit at the invitation of Mr Goh.

In his speech, Sir Ketumile said there was scope for cooperation between the two countries. Botswana had a variety of raw materials which could support manufacturing enterprises.

Mining and agriculture, he said, were the two most important economic activities in Botswana. The country, with a population of about 1.3 million, was endowed with diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, nickel and coal reserves.

The Botswanian government also supported joint-ventures between the private sectors of both countries, Sir Ketumile said, adding that Botswana lacked managerial and technical skills because it was still in the elementary stage of industrial development.

He said: “It is practical cooperation and people-to-people interaction that give real meaning to relations between countries.”

Sir Ketumile, who arrived yesterday, called on President Ong Teng Cheong and Mr Goh at the Istana earlier in the day.

During his stay, he will visit the National Productivity Board, Housing Board and Jurong Town Corporation.

He is accompanied by his wife, Lady Olebile, Foreign Minister G. K. T. Chiepe, Commerce and Industry Minister P. H. T. Kedikilwe, senior officials and a business delegation.

Mr Kedikilwe will host a lunch for Trade and Development Board officials and Singaporean businessmen today and give a presentation on Botswana’s business and trade potential.

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