Pretoria – Singapore has been described as an important and valued partner for South Africa in Southeast Asia, by Public Service and Administration Minister Collins Chabane.

“The South African government wishes to place on record its appreciation and gratitude for the assistance that Singapore has offered over the years by sharing its developmental experience with South Africa, which has so far benefited hundreds of South African government officials,” said Minister Chabane.

He said Singapore had helped South Africa with skills development under the Singapore Cooperation Programme sponsored by the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Minister Chabane was speaking at the 49th Anniversary of the National Day of Singapore on Friday. The day marks the passing of the Republic of Singapore Independence Act on 9 August 1965, which established the island as an independent and sovereign Republic.

The celebrations were held at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria on Friday evening.

Singapore and South Africa established diplomatic relations in 1992 and to date relations between the two countries have grown.

“During the 22 years since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between our two countries in 1992, our relationship has grown in all spheres – political, economic, military and social. Since then, seven bilateral agreements have been concluded,” said Minister Chabane at the celebrations.

The bilateral agreements cover cooperation in defence and tourism, among others.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Cooperation that was concluded between South Africa and Singapore in April 2005 made provision for regular consultations on issues of mutual interest between the two ministries of foreign affairs.

The most recent and third round of Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) was held in Singapore in February this year.

South Africa said the volume of bilateral trade was encouraging, with Singapore consistently featuring as one of South Africa’s main trading partners among the ten Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries.

Since independence, Singapore’s economy has grown by an average of 9% each year having come from a history of high unemployment and a lack of natural resources, among other things.

Singapore’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Bernard Baker, said trade between the two countries had grown steadily.

“Our economy grew by 4.1% in 2013 and we estimate growth for this financial year to be in the region of 2 to 4%. Trade between Singapore and South Africa has grown steadily and reached R2.3 billion in the last financial year up from R2.2 billion in 2012. Investment flows between the two countries is also growing,” said Commissioner Baker.

Baker said he hoped to see a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Singapore and Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Singapore has concluded FTAs with 24 trading partners.

Communications Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told SAnews that government was looking forward to working with Singapore to further develop South Africa.

“We’re looking forward to working with them positively for the development of South Africa. We are prepared to learn from the best, they have managed to change the dynamics in their country,” she said.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, and Deputy Minister of Labour, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, also attended the celebrations.