Singapore & Malaysia Discuss MOU Collaborations


Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim recently met in Singapore for the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat on 30 October 2023 (Monday).

On this occasion, both PMs reaffirmed their strong commitment to this annual engagement platform to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation and issues of mutual concern — this being their first Retreat together and the first Retreat held by Singapore and Malaysia since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognising the profound geographical, historical, and economic linkages that support bilateral relationships, the leaders emphasised the significance of the two nations’ lengthy and multifaceted relationship, which is governed by mutual respect and trust. Both reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening collaboration in developing areas and resolving any matters of concern in a courteous and productive way.

Both PMs observed the signing of a side letter to upgrade the Malaysia-Singapore Business Development Fund (MSBDF), with Singapore and Malaysia firms enjoying tight connections and complementary collaborations. This would give funds to Singapore and Malaysian firms to investigate possibilities in foreign countries and perform collaborative pilots in each other’s countries, particularly in growing sectors such as green economy and digital economy.

Notably, the leaders took note of the MOU on Collaboration on Development of Malaysian and Singaporean SMEs signed by Enterprise Singapore and SME Corporation Malaysia. At the same time, the leaders praised the prior MOU on Personal Data Protection, Cybersecurity, and the Digital Economy which was then signed in January 2023. 

Aside from that, both PMs expressed satisfaction with the ongoing collaboration under the auspices of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) and welcomed the progress made by the respective industrial cooperation, immigration, transport links, innovation, tourism, and environment work groups.

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The leaders took notice of the formation of a special task force under JMCIM to investigate the development of a Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JS-SEZ) and the progress update presented by the taskforce at the Retreat. The JS-SEZ aspires to use both nations’ complementary capabilities to promote economic connection by boosting cross-border flows of products, investments, and people. With this, the leaders welcomed efforts to work towards the signing of an MOU on the JS-SEZ in January 2024.

In terms of education, both PMs stated that Singapore’s Ministry of Education and Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education are now discussing an MOU in the sphere of higher education. This MOU aims to strengthen student and faculty exchanges, encourage scholarship exchanges between recognised higher education institutions, and promote information and experience sharing in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and other aspects of higher education, such as training programmes for administrators and academic staff.

Finally, the leaders praised the innovation work group’s efforts to strengthen ties between both countries’ start-up networks, encourage activities to accelerate the development of start-ups in both countries, and exchange knowledge on talent cultivation and emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and drones. The Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) will showcase Malaysian start-ups during this year’s Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH). These projects aim to improve human capital in both nations, develop people-to-people relationships, and improve collaboration on innovation.

 Some other takeaways from the Retreat:

  • Both presidents underlined their commitment to improving connectivity between Singapore and Malaysia and easing border congestion. They urged authorities from both nations to continue exchanging ideas in order to enhance the efficiency and experience of cross-border travel for their respective populations.

  • Both presidents praised the efforts of both nations’ agencies to alleviate congestion at the land border, as well as Singapore’s plans to reconstruct Woodlands Checkpoint to improve cross-border flow of people and products.

  • The presidents reaffirmed their resolve to collaborate on renewable energy co-development and cross-border power trade as both nations move towards a low-carbon future.

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