KUCHING, Aug 18: The Sarawak business community must be able to live up to the expectation of their Singapore counterparts as the trade and business ties with the Island Republic are being enhanced.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Sarawak’s production of goods destined for export to Singapore had to be in volumes large enough to be economically viable.
Speaking to hundreds of Sarawak entrepreneurs during an unscheduled pep talk at the Sarawak-Singapore Business Forum and Expo at the Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore on Friday, he said the participating Singaporean businessmen clearly indicated during the forum that they needed volume and this was a challenge that Sarawak had to accept confidently, the agricultural sector in particular.
“What I fear is that we are not able to cater to the volumes that they need. Therefore you must be passionate about fulfilling the needs of Singapore’s market as I and my cabinet colleagues are passionate about exploring markets and developing business ties with Singapore,” he said.
The one-day programme was held in conjunction with the official opening of the Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office (STATOS) in Singapore located at Robinson Road in the heart of Singapore’s business district.
The morning’s programme also featured exchanges of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and Memorandum of Agreements (MoAs) between Sarawak and Singapore, and capped with a forum where Abang Johari and his cabinet colleagues were fielded questions and queries from Singaporean entrepreneurs.
The event saw deals being closed for orders worth RM10 million for the export of mainly fruits and furniture to Singapore.
Abang Johari said the other factor that Sarawak had to address was the question of compliance with Singapore’s standard of quality.
He said production especially of food items had to be complied with Singapore’s standard if they were to be accepted in the market there.
However, he was optimistic that the issue of compliance could be overcome with the help of Singapore Business Federation who was willing to offer the service of auditing the processes of production on site.
“A successful audit would qualify (Sarawakian) local entrepreneurs with a certain certification that would enable them to enter the market.
“If we were able to meet Singapore’s standard then I think we can meet the standards of other countries in this region and beyond,” he said.
Abang Johari also pointed out that the balance of trade with Singapore was in favour of the island state and the newly-enhanced relationship should present the opportunity for Sarawak to close the gap with more aggressive production of goods, food items in particular.
Statistics show that Singapore contributed about two per cent of Sarawak’s total trade amounting to USD35.6 billion in 2018.
Abang Johari said after Singapore, Sarawak would turn to Pontianak in Kalimantan, Indonesia as the location of its next trade and tourism office.
He expressed his belief that the proposed relocation of Indonesia’s capital to Kalimantan would boost Sarawak’s economy that Sarawak must take advantage of, especially in food production.
Earlier that day, the Chief Minister also met with the members of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation led by the President Douglas Foo in a closed-door session at the same venue.
Accompanying Abang Johari at the meeting were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, who is also the Minister of Industrial and Entrepreneur Development, Acting State Secretary Datu Jaul Samion and the Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Dato’ Zainol Rahim Zainuddin.— DayakDaily