PM Lawrence Wong at the Official Lunch in Honour of Lao PM Sonexay Siphandone (Jul 2024)

PM Lawrence Wong | 9 July 2024

Toast speech by Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the official lunch in honour of Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone on 9 July 2024.

Your Excellency Mr Sonexay Siphandone
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone and members of his delegation to Singapore.

In 1995, then-PM Goh Chok Tong hosted Lao Prime Minister Khamtay Siphandone’s visit to Singapore.

Now, almost 30 years later, I am honoured to welcome his son, PM Sonexay, on his introductory visit to Singapore.

It is also a timely visit as we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Over the years, much has changed in both our countries and the world. But our friendship has remained constant, and our relationship has grown from strength to strength.

And today, we are launching a 50th anniversary logo which resembles the infinity symbol, and signifies our long and enduring partnership.

PM Sonexay knows Singapore well.

He has visited us twice before in 2015.

And a year later, we had the honour to host PM Sonexay on a Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship Programme.

Our close ties at the highest levels reflect our shared interests as small states with similar geographies.

At first glance, this may seem surprising, because Laos is a much larger country in terms of land mass compared to Singapore.

But our populations are similar in size. And we both have to grapple with the constraints of geography.

Laos is land-locked and does not have direct access to sea.

Singapore, as an island State, is “sea-locked”, and we have to navigate narrow waterways to access shipping and maritime routes.

So our two countries face common challenges, which we have to overcome in order to make a living for ourselves, and to secure our future. We both have shared interests in upholding an open, stable and rules-based global order.

This is why Singapore fully supports Laos’ ASEAN Chairmanship theme of “Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience”.

We fully support the objective of enhancing connectivity and resilience for the region, especially in this increasingly volatile world.

And through the Singapore-Laos Enhanced Cooperation Programme, we are happy to be able to contribute in a small way to Laos’ Chairmanship.

Our cooperation on renewable energy is an example of how we can translate the challenges of geography into mutually beneficial opportunities.

In particular, the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project has enabled Laos to export its rich supplies of green energy, and for Singapore to benefit from our first import of renewable energy. We look forward to the enhancement and expansion of this LTMS-PIP into its second phase, which will also be in line with Laos’ own plans to become the “Battery of ASEAN”.

The project will also lay the foundation for an ASEAN Power Grid, which will enable deeper energy connectivity within ASEAN, and strengthen energy resilience in our region.

The signing of the MOU on Carbon Credits Collaboration aligned with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which PM Soxenay and I just witnessed, opens yet another new frontier for cooperation.

We look forward to working closely with Laos to conclude the legally binding Implementation Agreement on carbon credits collaboration, which will further connect our countries in mutually beneficial ways.

It will help us to achieve our climate targets, facilitate investments, create jobs, promote sustainable development, and encourage the deployment of clean technology.

As countries with small populations, Singapore and Laos also understand the importance of human capital development. Singapore wants Laos to succeed, and we have been a steadfast supporter of your development.

We have hosted more than 16,500 Lao officials under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, on courses ranging from economic development to public administration.

Under Singapore’s Initiative for ASEAN Integration, we had opened a training centre in Vientiane back in 2001, and this was upgraded to the Lao-Singapore Cooperation Centre in 2019.

The renewal of the Education Cooperation MOU will also facilitate the sharing of best practices and experiences between our countries. It will forge closer bonds between our youths, paving the way for our relations to flourish over the next generation.

Such cooperation is testament to our strong people-to-people ties. We see more Singaporeans interested to do more in Laos and with Laos.

We have student groups from Singapore visiting Laos every year for community projects.

Our businesses are exploring opportunities across various sectors, from infrastructure to logistics and tourism.

When I visited Luang Prabang earlier this year for the ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Meeting, I met a Singapore entrepreneur, Mr Benny Kong. Through his online travel portal, he has helped to support the Lao Government’s “Visit Laos Year 2024” campaign to attract international tourists to Laos.

So I look forward to working with PM Sonexay and his Ministers to advance our common interests, both bilaterally and in ASEAN. And I of course look forward to visiting Laos again later this year for the ASEAN Summits.

Prime Minister, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast:

To the good health and success of His Excellency President Thongloun Sisoulith;

To the continued good health and success of PM Sonexay and his delegation;

And to the continued peace and prosperity of Laos; and the enduring friendship between our countries.
Foreign affairs