Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Aljunied): A cornerstone of Singapore’s foreign policies defending our interest at multilateral organisations, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization. Singapore has won a seat on the councils of both organisations. Last year, we achieved another milestone in having a Singaporean, Mr Daren Tang, elected as a Secretary-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Towards securing our candidatures, we need to depend on the support of more than just our major and regional partners. Singapore also has to engage countries in Africa, Latin America, the Carribean and the Pacific Islands. However, engaging these countries is a mammoth task. In MFA, there are about eight desk officers who cover about a hundred countries in these regions and only three resident embassies in these regions. Inevitably, we sacrifice depth of knowledge for width of engagement. Can I ask the Minister, are the current resources sufficient, given increased competition from other countries?
Second, is MFA receiving enough support from other Government agencies? While it is understandable that domestic issues are prioritised over hosting foreign visitors, sharing expertise and offering technical assistance, the latter set of actions are a key aspect of our engagement in our larger foreign policy goals. I am glad that the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) has moved some courses online. The SCP is a useful tool in building goodwill for Singapore and it is vital that its effectiveness is maintained despite COVID-19.
The on-going pandemic has reduced the number of opportunities for direct high-level physical contacts with these countries. Has MFA been able to maintain or step up such contacts through virtual meetings?
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1 March 2021