Speech by His Majesty the King at the state banquet on the occasion of the state visit of the President of the Republic of Singapore, Halimah Yacob, Royal Palace Amsterdam
Madam President, Mr Mohamed,
Welcome to Amsterdam! My wife and I have been looking forward to your visit. The Republic of Singapore and the Kingdom of the Netherlands are clear proof that countries can be far apart and still have a close relationship.
You’re paying your first state visit outside Southeast Asia to a country on another continent, over 10,000 kilometres from your own shores.
We are honoured to have you here. The Netherlands cherishes its special bond with Singapore, a country that isn’t afraid to embrace the future. In many respects, your young country is an example for others: a pioneer that leads the way.
A high standard of living, excellent education, state-of-the-art infrastructure, technological expertise: all these things come together in your nation.
Singapore proves that small countries can possess exceptional strength and worldwide allure.
It makes us proud that a Dutchman – Albert Winsemius, who was a long-term economic adviser to Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – was able to assist Singapore in becoming the flourishing nation it is today. From the moment he set foot in your country, in the early 1960s, he was impressed by the resourcefulness and industry of the Singaporeans.
On the streets, he saw people transform three broken bicycles into two brand-new ones. He also witnessed the prudence, the international outlook and the well-considered choices of its administrators.
As he himself put it: ‘What happened in Singapore was not a miracle. It was policy.’
Albert Winsemius’s fascination for Singapore is shared by many of his compatriots. Around 10,000 Dutch people live in Singapore. Over 1,600 Dutch businesses are based there, from global players to small start-ups.
The biggest Dutch primary school outside the Netherlands is in Singapore. And the Hollandse Club – where all nationalities are welcome – is 110 years old and still going strong!
Madam President, your society is highly diverse. People with very different backgrounds and beliefs live at close quarters. Yet it’s striking how those differences aren’t blown out of proportion. And how you constantly strive for a sense of unity based on mutual respect.
Along with your strong economic position, this provides a foundation on which future generations can build.
There’s only one thing more difficult than becoming successful, and that’s staying successful.
It’s characteristic of your country that you always think a few steps ahead. In that respect we are honoured that you have come to us for inspiration. Conversely, your visit – and that of the delegation travelling with you – inspires us. There is so much that we can learn from you, especially in the field of technological innovation.
During your stay in our country, you will be visiting various centres of knowledge and creativity.
You will see presentations by Dutch entrepreneurs, scientists, students, designers and experts. And you’ll be able to learn more about the Dutch approach. An approach that you may find a bit unpolished and unconventional.
Dutch innovators aren’t afraid to experiment, or to leave the beaten track. They feel free to come up with their own ideas, and to take the initiative. The input that all these enterprising people provide is crucial if we are to find answers to the major issues of our time.
Many of those issues will be discussed during your state visit: the need for a reliable, sustainable food supply; resilience to the impact of climate change; growing older healthily; cybersecurity; the circular economy, and so on.
These are all challenges that preoccupy both our countries and I’m sure that we have a lot to offer each other in these areas.
Madam President, you grew up in a country that, in the space of a few decades, has experienced a transformation seldom witnessed in the history of humanity.
From a small, vulnerable country to self-assured global hub. And you are working with tireless commitment to ensure that Singapore retains that position.
We have every confidence in the success of your country! We have been allies in the past, and we will remain allies in the future.
Together, let us go on proving that countries of modest size can achieve great things if they join forces!
May I now ask you to raise your glasses.
To your health, Madam President and Mr Mohamed!
And to the friendship between the Republic of Singapore and the Kingdom of the Netherlands!