SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Monday that his government has successfully tackled corruption and Armenia’s other chronic problems “characteristic of many post-Soviet countries”. Pashinyan was speaking at a lunch hosted in his honor by Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong
“In the course of the past year the government of Armenia has taken steps that have radically transformed the country’s business environment, it has strengthened the rule of law, created a level playing field for all economic actors and foreign investors in particular. Corruption has declined sharply.”
“We no longer suffer from symptoms characteristic of many post-Soviet countries,” he declared. “The new Armenia opens up new opportunities for investing and engaging in economic activities.”
Singapore Prime Minister Lee welcomed Pashinyan’s official visit, reminding ties between Armenia and Singapore that go back 200 years to when the British founded modern Singapore, with Armenians among the first migrants to the new free port.
Although their numbers were not large, the Armenian community has made a significant impact here, PM Lee added.
“Signs of Armenian influence can still be found all over Singapore,” PM Lee said. “As a former journalist who founded his own newspaper, PM Pashinyan would be pleased to know that Singapore’s main broadsheet, The Straits Times, was co-founded in 1845 by an Armenian, Catchick Moses.”
Several streets also bear the names of prominent Armenians who settled here, while the country’s national flower – the Vanda Miss Joaquim – was bred by Singapore-born Armenian resident Agnes Joaquim.
Speaking in Armenian, Mr Pashinyan warmly expressed his appreciation of how the Armenian heritage has been “remembered and protected with the utmost care” in Singapore.
“No doubt, today we are proud to witness the valuable mark our small but enterprising community has left in one of the most wonderful places of the world,” he said.
He added that he hopes to usher in a “new opening” of relations between both countries, especially to boost the growth of bilateral trade and investment.
Armenia and Singapore are alike in that they advocate multilateralism and free trade at a time when many are turning against these principles, PM Lee said.
He noted that Singapore is negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Armenia is chairing this year.
“The FTA will catalyze more business and stronger economic relations between our regions,” Mr Lee said, adding that he appreciates Armenia’s strong support for the agreement. “I am heartened by the substantial progress made and hope that we will be able to conclude the FTA, especially the goods chapter, soon.”
On Monday, both countries signed five agreements to cooperate in areas such as tourism, taxation, arts and culture, vocational training and plant exchange.
Armenia is one of five member states of the EAEU, which also comprises Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The economic bloc represents a market of more than 180 million people with a combined gross domestic product $1.8 trillion.
Mr Pashinyan arrived in Singapore on Sunday and received an official welcome at the Istana on Monday morning. Apart from calling on PM Lee, he also paid a courtesy call on Singapore President Halimah Yacob.
On Monday afternoon, he and his delegation met business leaders at a round-table session organized by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF). Companies at the session, which was also attended by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, came from a wide range of industries including manufacturing, technology and agri-commodities.
“For many of us present today, Eurasia is an emerging region that some Singapore businesses have begun exploring for opportunities, “said Mr Ho Meng Kit, who is SBF’s chief executive. “Today’s round-table serves as a useful platform for us to better understand the developments and investment opportunities in Armenia, as well as exchange insights and forge closer economic cooperation between our two countries.”
The Armenian Prime Minister is accompanied by his wife, Madam Anna Hakobyan, as well as the Minister of Economy Tigran Khachatryan, Minister of High-Technological Industry Hakob Arshakyan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Avet Adonts and senior government officials.