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SINGAPORE — Despite the reopening of borders between Singapore and Malaysia, air connectivity between the two countries is only at about 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, said Singapore's foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
"Before the pandemic, we had about 500 flights a week. We hope in the next few weeks and months, to see a full resumption of air connectivity," he told Singapore media at a doorstop interview on Thursday (19 May) at the end of his three-day visit to Kuala Lumpur.
The two countries are also looking at a ferry service from Desaru to Tanah Merah, he said. "I think that is a matter of undergoing the necessary regulatory checks and approvals. That should be in order shortly," Dr Balakrishnan added.
On the Johor-Singapore Rapid Transit System, Dr Balakrishnan said construction is well underway for the Singapore station. "We are looking forward to, hopefully, the establishment of full passenger services by the end of 2026."
Meanwhile, Singapore is still waiting for proposals from Malaysia on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project, which was previously terminated by Malaysia.
"We will wait for their proposals; we will examine their proposals with a fresh pair of eyes on a clean slate. Let us wait and see what emerges, but again the key point here is connectivity and opportunities to collaborate, opportunities to invest, (and) opportunities to do more together," he said.
Dr Balakrishnan also spoke about bilateral ties amid “challenging and complicated” changes in Malaysian politics since 2018 including “various reconfigurations of government”. Their relationship and trust have strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic with support rendered to each other during critical moments, Dr Balakrishnan said.
He also pointed out that he has known a number of Malaysian leaders for many years including Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. As political leaders, their primary duty is to advance the interests, security and opportunities for both sides.
“But being friends, having a long history of interaction and engagement, ensures that we can communicate effectively without misunderstanding, and that we can collaborate effectively and bring about the fruition of projects of mutual benefit,” Dr Balakrishnan said.
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