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Singapore's ties with Vietnam prospering: PM Lee

There are more than 900 Singapore projects in Ho Chi Minh City alone, says PM at dinner reception

PM Lee and Mrs Lee with Singaporeans at Hotel Intercontinental Asiana Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday. Latest figures peg the number of Singaporeans living in Vietnam at nearly 3,000; an estimated 1,300 of them are in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City

THE bumper-to-bumper traffic jams seen throughout the day in Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial hub of Vietnam, can be seen as a sign that the country is doing well, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the first day of his official visit to Vietnam.

"Vietnam is prospering, and the ties between Singapore and Vietnam are as well," he said on Tuesday evening, at a dinner reception with nearly 300 Singaporeans based in the bustling city.

In a short speech at the start of the function held at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon hotel, Mr Lee noted that there are more than 900 Singapore projects in Ho Chi Minh City alone.

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The latest figures peg the number of Singaporeans living in Vietnam at nearly 3,000; an estimated 1,300 of them are in Ho Chi Minh City.

Mr Lee mentioned that the recent report by the high-level Committee on the Future Economy underscored the need for Singapore firms to venture abroad and seize opportunities in the region and beyond.

"A lot of things are happening in the region - Vietnam, Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia - and the fact that you are all here shows that the adventurous spirit in Singaporeans is alive and well."

Singapore's ambassador to Vietnam Catherine Wong, who hosted Mr Lee and his delegation at the reception, said the Singapore leader's visit comes at a time when bilateral political and economic relations are in excellent shape.

This is evident from the regular exchange of high-level visits between Singapore and Vietnam of late.

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang was in Singapore last August for a three-day state visit; Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan made separate visits to the country last year as well.

Ms Wong also said that economic cooperation remains very good; Singapore is now ranked as the third-largest foreign investor in Vietnam (after South Korea and Japan); in Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore is the top investor.

(Singapore) companies continue to be positive and bullish about the economic prospects. This is reflected in the fact that, in the first two months of 2017, Singapore was Vietnam's top investor. Hopefully, this trend will continue," she said.

Earlier in the day, shortly after he touched down at the airport, Mr Lee went to the Reunification Palace, where he met Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong.

Mr Phong, ranked second after the city's Party Committee secretary Dinh La Thang, later hosted Mr Lee and his delegation to lunch.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in Singapore said in a statement after the meeting that Mr Lee and Mr Phong discussed the common priority areas for both Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City.

The Singapore leader noted that "the potential is great" and he conveyed Singapore's continued interest in expanding its investments in the Vietnamese city.

Mr Phong updated Mr Lee on the plans for Ho Chi Minh City's development, and Mr Lee indicated that Singapore is "happy to share (its) experience in urban planning and management".

The PMO statement said: "Chairman Phong looked forward to deeper business links with Singapore, and (said) that Ho Chi Minh City will continue to provide a conducive operating environment for success."

This is Mr Lee's first trip to Ho Chi Minh City since 2006. He will travel to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Wednesday evening for the second leg of his four-day visit.