Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong At the Opening Of the Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus, 13 Feb 2012

13 February 2012

Sir Simon Robertson
Chairman of Rolls-Royce
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

1.         I am delighted to be here in the Seletar Aerospace Park to open the Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus today.

2.         Aviation is a strategic industry to Singapore.  As a small country, we depend on global connectivity to thrive, and aviation helps to connect Singapore to the wide world.  It enhances our position as a global city, as an international business centre, and as a trading hub.

3.         Therefore, we have consistently sought to build up Singa­pore as an aviation hub.  We have developed a world-class airport – Changi has made itself a famous brand name, winning many awards, handling 6,000 weekly flights to more than 210 cities.  We set up SIA after Malaysia-Singapore Airlines split up in 1972, and SIA has also made itself into a Singapore icon, representing our can-do spirit, our professionalism and our commitment to serve, and thus becoming one of the best global airlines today.  We have advocated a liberal, open-skies policy, to encourage free competition and fierce pressure on airlines to perform and deliver good service and good connectivity for Singapore.  We also serve on the ICAO Council, contributing to the regulation and development of international civil aviation.

4.         These efforts to develop Singapore into an aviation hub have yielded us significant business and economic benefits.  Last year, Changi handled more than 46 million passengers and almost two million tons of airfreight.  We have a thriving aviation industry in Singapore, which is more than 3% of our GDP, with comprehensive “nose-to-tail” capabilities in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), including many of the world’s top engine, avionics and components makers.  We have created good and well paying jobs for Singaporeans.  All in, the aeronautics and aerospace industry has generated more than 19,000 jobs, and four out of five of these workers are Singaporeans, and nine out of 10 are skilled jobs.

5.         But we cannot take our position for granted.  On the one hand, there are many opportunities in Asia, because notwithstanding the current uncertainties in the global economy, the long-term outlook for Asia is good.  And Asia’s aviation industry is expected to see strong growth.  Over the next two decades, Asia’s fleet is expected to triple, and as a share of global fleet, Asia’s fleet will also rise from less than a quarter now, to more than a third.  On the other hand, there are new challenges to Singa­pore’s status as an aviation hub.  More cities are striving to do the same, in China and in the Middle East, and technological progress may reshape the aviation landscape.  Longer-range aircrafts, industry restructuring, rise of low-cost carriers – these can change the industry structure and the pattern of global flights in unpredictable ways.

6.         Singapore must stay abreast of these changes. We must improve the connectivity of our aviation hub, because this is a self-reinforcing advantage.  We need to continue to educate our workers, to develop a highly-skilled workforce to move up the value chain and undertake more complex work.  We need to strengthen our pro-business environment, for example, our intellectual property protection regime and our R&D landscape, to take full advantage of the knowledge-intensive nature of the aviation industry and to give companies confidence to make long-term commitments to Singapore.

7.         This is why the Singapore Government invested in Seletar Aerospace Park.  Our aim is to create a vibrant cluster of complementary industries – MRO, manufacturing and assembly, training, R&D; and to make full use of expensive infrastructure, like the upgraded airport, the extended runway and the purpose-built facilities, to harness Singapore’s skilled workforce and generate full economic value and potential from this aerospace park.  And I am glad that the industry’s reception to the Park has been positive, and three-quarters of Phases 1 and 2 have already been taken up.

8.         I am particularly happy that Rolls-Royce is playing a big part in the Aerospace Park.  Rolls-Royce has been one of our longstanding partners for more than half a century.  It has grown together with Singapore, first establishing a modest representative office here in the 1950s, setting up its first MRO operation here in 1998, and opening its Global Marine Headquarters here last year.

9.         The Seletar Campus takes our partnership to the next level.  It is a landmark project for Rolls-Royce and Singapore.  Rolls-Royce calls this its “Facility of the Future”, and we treat it so.  It is the single largest aerospace investment ever in Singapore, worth S$700million, and will house the Trent engine assembly and test, training, R&D, as well as wide chord fan blade manufacturing facility.  It is the first time that Rolls-Royce is making these crucial components – the wide chord fan blade – outside its home in Derby in Britain, and it enables Singapore to play a key role in supplying aircraft engines for the latest jets, such as the A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  And it will create better jobs for Singaporeans.  Ninety-five percent of the jobs created at Seletar are skilled – managerial positions, engineers, technicians, production craftsmen.  And almost all the workers hired so far are locals.  I am glad to hear that our Singaporean engineers under training are working well with their counterparts in Derby.

10.      Rolls-Royce could have sited this Campus anywhere in the world.  Choosing Singapore reflects their confidence in our workforce and in our future.  We are deeply honoured by their trust, and Singapore will do our part to help the Campus succeed, and to make this partnership flourish.

11.      So I congratulate the Chairman, Sir Simon Robertson, and Rolls-Royce on the opening of the Seletar Campus.  Long may this venture thrive and prosper, and take off.

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