Singapore, Qatar share a natural affinity and similar strategic outlook

“We are small states surrounded by neighbours much larger than us...We seek to make ourselves relevant despite our size", President Halimah said.

Prisca Ang

Prisca Ang

The Straits Times


President Halimah Yacob (centre) viewing exhibits at the National Museum of Qatar, accompanied by Qatar's ambassador to Singapore Saoud Bin Jassim Mohammed Al Jufairi (left) and director of the museum Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Hamad Al Thani (right). ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

June 21, 2023

DOHA – Singapore and Qatar share a natural affinity for each other and hold a similar strategic outlook, said President Halimah Yacob at a dinner reception in Doha, the capital city of Qatar, on Tuesday.

“We are small states surrounded by neighbours much larger than us, in both land area and population. We seek to make ourselves relevant despite our size, and to be active, responsible and constructive members of the international community,” she said.

More than 250 Singaporeans attended the reception, out of around 300 living in the Gulf nation.

“Singapore and Qatar continue to be strong advocates for free trade and an inclusive, rules-based multilateral trading system,” said Madam Halimah during her state visit to the Middle Eastern country.

The President noted that Qatar has undergone significant transformation in recent years, becoming the first country in the region to host the football World Cup in 2022.

“The success of Qatar’s World Cup demonstrated that a small country is capable of putting up a spectacular show and shining on the world stage,” said Madam Halimah, who visited the 88,966-seater Lusail Stadium – one of eight stadiums built for the occasion – earlier on Tuesday.

The President toured the National Museum of Qatar, which traces the country’s evolution from a small fishing community to a modern state.

She also visited the 2.6 million sq m Baladna Farm, which is able to house 24,000 cows and is one of the largest cattle farms in the region. The air-conditioned farm produces around 450 tonnes of dairy products annually.

Madam Halimah said: “I look forward to witnessing more of the dynamism and opportunities that Qatar and Qataris have to offer.”

Qatar and Singapore have excellent relations and frequent high-level exchanges, with economic ties growing steadily over the years, she noted.

Singapore established diplomatic relations in November 1984 with Qatar, which is the Republic’s third-largest trading partner in the Middle East. Bilateral trade in 2022 amounted to $8.2 billion.

Local companies in Qatar include oil and gas infrastructure company Rotary Engineering, Certis Cisco, Keppel and interior design firm Daya.

Ms Grace Chia, second deputy executive chairman of Rotary Engineering, told The Straits Times that Qatar is where the action is for energy storage infrastructure companies. Rotary Engineering established its regional office in Qatar in 2020, and employs 800 staff there out of its 6,000 workers globally.

Rotary clinched a US$340 million (S$456 million) contract by QatarEnergy in 2021 to design and build a storage tank farm for petroleum and jet fuel products in Qatar’s Mesaieed Industrial City, one of the country’s major industrial areas for gas processing, refining, and petrochemical production.

“We are also venturing into the LNG (liquefied natural gas) space in terms of storage tanks, and we feel that when it comes to sustainability, this is going to be the path forward for us,” Ms Chia said, noting that Qatar is the world’s top LNG exporter.

Meanwhile, Daya established its headquarters in Qatar in 2014 as it set its sights on the country’s vast opportunities in interior design and fit-outs for commercial projects ahead of the World Cup.

The company has worked with clients such as global hotel chains, telcos and government agencies.

Co-founder and owner Hamdan Kasimi said the company, which employs 30 people in Qatar, has managed to sustain a steady stream of projects even after the World Cup.

This has been partly due to Qatar’s National Vision 2030 – a plan that aims to transform the country in areas such as social development and environmental management.

President Halimah Yacob (second from right) visited the 2.6 million sq m Baladna Farm, one of the largest cattle farms in the region. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Singapore and Qatar companies are set to benefit further as both countries are inking several memorandums of understanding on Wednesday in areas such as energy, food security, cyber security and technical cooperation.

Besides political and economic relations, the countries’ ties are also shaped by their peoples’ interactions with each other, said Madam Halimah.

Singaporeans in Qatar have made their mark in a region unfamiliar with many of their countrymen, she said.

Mr Hamdan Kasimi, co-founder and owner of Daya, which has worked with clients such as hotel chains, telcos and government agencies. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

They include pilots and specialists in the aviation field, engineers, bankers, information technology experts, and healthcare and hospitality professionals.

Ms Susanna Toi, general manager of interior design and fit-out company Trendz Design, did not expect that she would live and work in Qatar for 18 years when she moved here in 2005.

“I initially planned to stay for three years, but as I spent a longer time in the market, I found that there were always more opportunities, so I decided to continue to stay here,” she said.

There were challenges such as cultural and language barriers, and clients found it unusual to deal with a female business owner back then, she said, adding: “I understood the culture over time and learnt how to show respect to those I worked with in a way they could appreciate, and in turn they respected me too.”

Madam Halimah urged overseas Singaporeans to remain connected with their country and participate in discussions such as Forward Singapore, as the Republic navigates an increasingly challenging geopolitical environment.

She said: “Though you are physically away, your unique perspectives of the world and Singapore’s place in it can serve as invaluable input for the Singapore leadership as we chart the way ahead for our nation.”

President Halimah Yacob (third from left) visited the 88,966-seater Lusail Stadium earlier on Tuesday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

scroll to top