[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, October 09, 2006

1. I arrived in Doha this morning by Qatar Airways for a bilateral meeting co-chaired by DPM Wong Kan Seng and the Crown Prince. Qatar Airways is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world. The goal is to make Doha a major aviation hub, a rival to Dubai.

2. I first came to Doha in November 2001 for the WTO ministerial meeting which launched 'the Doha Round'. Coming soon after Sep 11, there was a certain anxiety because it was within Scud range of Iraq. At the end of September, Singapore was asked by the US and EU to be an alternative venue for the WTO meeting. We were reluctant because there was so little time to prepare for it. But PM Goh felt that we had a responsibility to the global trading system and so we agreed, laying down restrictive conditions. This caused some misunderstanding with the Qatar Government which thought that we were undercutting them. In the event, the decision was finally taken not to shift venue. During the WTO meeting, I got to know my counterpart, Trade Minister Yusuf Kamal and we became good friends. He is now the Finance Minister.

3. Our bilateral relations are now growing from strength to strength and cover many areas including security and economic cooperation. There are good opportunities for Singaporeans. We already have a small community here.

4. Qatar is a remarkable country. It has the third largest reserve of natural gas in the world (enough to keep all the power stations in the US going for 50 years) and exports both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquids converted from gas. It also produces about a million barrels of oil a day. For a small population of less than 200,000 Qataris, this is one of the world's wealthiest countries on a per capita basis. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners work here including many from South Asia and the Philippines. In the coming years, over US$100 billion will be invested in infrastructure and facilities.

5. The Emir and his wife, the Sheikha, are determined to make use of Qatar's wealth to raise the educational and cultural level of Qataris, and to build the best infranstructure any country can have. Their interest in Singapore is principally because they like the way we have been able to raise the quality of our people and build up our capabilities without natural resources.

6. Qatar's external environment is complicated. As Foreign Minister, I can't go into more details. It is also the home of the well-known if somewhat controversial Arabic TV station, Al Jazeera.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to sunny Doha. Hope you'll enjoy the Ramadan experience here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 12:35:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Min, what do you think of the other Middle East nations? They are all fascinating, no?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 11:22:00 pm


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