Aug 21, 2006

PM Singapore : Spat between Tun Mahathir and PM Badawi is affecting the climate of ASEAN

Even our neighbour is starting to get wary on the issues between Tun Mahathir and Pak Lah.

Extracted to BERNAMA
Singapore Sees Dr M-Abdullah Differences Affecting 'Asean Climate'

SINGAPORE, Aug 20 (Bernama) -- The overall outlook of Asean remains favourable although some member countries are facing difficulties, a situation which could affect "the climate of Asean", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

In Malaysia, he said, the problem was the "deep political differences" between former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"I think everyone hopes it will be resolved soon," he said in his National Day Rally speech at the National University of Singapore's Cultural Centre tonight.

Lee made reference to Malaysia and several other Asean countries as he elaborated on the outlook and the challenges faced by the 10-member grouping which, he said, will indirectly affect Singapore.

On bilateral relations with Malaysia, Lee said that both countries "will work on the positive aspects of our relations".

"Negotiations over bridge, airspace and sand have ended. Still some other issues outstanding (but) these are on the backburner for the time being. Meanwhile, we will work on the positive aspects of our relations," he said.

Lee also mentioned the problem in Thailand, saying that the country is going into another election but "serious political uncertainties are not yet over".

In Indonesia, Lee said that the government has tackled difficult issues such as cutting fuel subsidies but many other critical reforms are waiting such as tax, investment and labour laws, which are "politically very hard" to implement.

"These regional problems affect the climate of Asean as a whole, and so affect Singapore indirectly," he said.

"If Asean cannot get its act together, then instead of taking off with China and India, we will be left behind."

Singapore will therefore continue to work with its Asean partners to promote growth and stability in Southeast Asia.

"But taking the situation as a whole, the outlook is favourable. (We) just have to be ready in case the dangers materialise," he said.

Other challenges facing the region are the high prices of energy due to the tension in the Middle East.

Although there was a ceasefire in Lebanon, the problems in Iran, Iraq and Israel-Palestine are far from over, he said. "If there is a blow-up, energy prices will spike, causing a global recession."


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