BRIDGING THE ANTIPODES: A STORY OF CASE OF ECUADOR AND SINGAPORE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
31 Dec 2010
Fausto Valle (MPP 2011)
Former Ambassador of Ecuador to Singapore
My background in economics drove me along a fantastic journey in the Ecuadorian Public Sector. From 2001 to 2009, I had the pleasure of serving as an Advisor and Consultant to various public organizations such as the Ministry of Economics and Finance, Ministry of Oil and Mining, Ministry of Production and Competitiveness, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Industry, and the Municipality of Quito. During my time as a public servant, I had to complete different tasks ranging from operations to finance the national budget, negotiations of bilateral trade agreements, to the implementation of a national plan for efficient fuel consumption in the industrial sector. These experiences allowed me to know Ecuador from different perspectives and to understand that the country’s needs were higher than its capacity. Thus, I thought that it was time to strengthen my academic profile and to experience and learn what other countries were doing worldwide in terms of economic and social development.
When it comes to pursuing higher education, Latin American students are typically interested in North American or European universities to enhance their academic profiles. Only few are willing to explore Asia, its history, culture, and development. In my case, the fascinating economic and social development of Singapore and the comprehensive academic program offered by LKY School were the key factors that convinced me to fly from Ecuador to its antipode, Singapore.
After I completed the first year of my Master in Public Policy (MPP) progamme, I decided to write a policy brief on how to enhance bilateral relations between Singapore and Ecuador. This document was presented to the President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador. After months of analysis, the Ecuadorian Government decided to establish its first diplomatic mission in Singapore and I was given the enormous responsibility to open the Ecuadorian Embassy and had the big honor of becoming the first Ambassador of Ecuador to Singapore (2011 – 2014)
During my time as Ambassador and with the support of the Singaporean and Ecuadorian authorities, bilateral relationship between the two countries reached historic peaks. An Air Service Agreement was ratified with the purpose of enhancing connectivity and tourism. Likewise, a Memorandum of Understanding on Logistics and Transport was signed looking forward to develop in Ecuador ports, airports and logistics zones based on Singapore´s experience. A Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) was implemented with the purpose of attracting investments and alleviating territorial double taxation. The number of Singaporean tourists visiting Ecuador and the amount of trade of goods and services doubled.
One of the key examples of collaboration between Singapore and Ecuador by the time I served as Ambassador was related to the development of industrial parks. Singapore is recognized worldwide for its Petrochemical Hub in Jurong Island. This industrial development was of high interest for Ecuador because Latin American countries are net importers of petrochemical products. Hence, the development of a petrochemical park in the region could be a key business opportunity that might enhance economic growth, generate employment, and attract investments.
I found out about Jurong Island and the Petrochemical Hub of Singapore while I was studying at the School, specifically during the time I was conducting research for my Public Analysis Exercise (PAE). My PAE was related to the contribution of refining centers to economic growth and Jurong Island helped me as a benchmark. The Ecuadorian Government was looking forward to developing a new oil refining center, so it was a perfect timing to connect with Singapore´s experience in Jurong Island.
The first meeting between Surbana Jurong and the Government of Ecuador took place in Quito in June 2013. Only three months after that meeting, Surbana Jurong started working on what it is today “Ecuador´s Petrochemical Master Plan”. The Plan is helping to coordinate efforts from different public institutions and serves as a guideline for investors on the petrochemical industry.
It is fascinating to realize how an academic interest can become a whole new world of opportunities for two regions, and this can only happen when you have the opportunity to study in one of the most important academic centers in the world, like myself, that I was fortunate enough to conduct my postgraduate study at the Lee Kuan Yew school of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.