15/05/2024 05:42 PM

By Norsyafawati Ab Wahab and Zairina Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 (Bernama) -- New Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong is expected to further strengthen the special relations the island republic enjoys with Malaysia by reinforcing existing bilateral economic policies and building upon the robust linkages between both nations, economists said.

Malaysian Economic Association deputy president Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng expects Wong to prioritise existing agreements and initiatives and possibly take them a notch higher such as in the development of Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JS-SEZ), where Malaysia can leverage via its land and labour.  

"We expect a greater focus from the new leadership, by continuing existing agreements signed (with) previous Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and for Wong -- who was Deputy Prime Minister -- to resolve a few outstanding issues with Malaysia.

" I don't think those issues are too difficult, given the emphasis on how we can mutually cooperate," he told Bernama. 

Wong's job would be made much easier based on Lee's remarks that during his 20 years as Prime Minister, Singapore made progress on several issues when dealing with the long list of Malaysian prime ministers, starting with Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. 

Yeah said one of the many issues for Wong to focus on was the completion of the highly-anticipated Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail (HSR) project.

His work has been cut out for him as it is of utmost importance for the new prime minister to ensure that the mega project is ultimately financially sustainable and mutually beneficial as it will bring a new dimension in transport linkages between both neighbours.

"The project will have spillover effects for both countries, so I think it will be unproductive to negotiate on what exactly the spillovers would be given that these are fairly uncertain (and more so) in terms of splitting the benefits equitably.

"There is a need to exercise a give and take attitude (and) more importantly, to ensure the project can be financed on a sustainable basis and without excessive burden on both countries' finances."

"And of course, Malaysia can also leverage on Singapore's healthy public finances given its huge reserves and whether these resources can be used partly to lower the cost of financing the project," he said. 

Meanwhile, Putra Business School economic analyst associate professor Dr Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff opined that Wong would not change the current economic policies drastically since Singapore is Malaysia's important trading partner, and the policies have so far worked well bilaterally.

"I anticipate no significant changes in economic strategy under the fourth Prime Minister of Singapore," he said.

For more than a decade, Malaysia and Singapore have been each other’s second largest global trading partner and the largest among Asean countries.

In 2023, total trade between the two countries was valued at US$79.6 billion (RM363.13 billion).






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