Syed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim joined the Singapore Foreign Service in 1996.
Beginning his career in the ASEAN Directorate, he has served in Singapore’s diplomatic representations in Washington, DC., New York, Geneva, Doha, and Vienna before being posted as Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore in Muscat in June 2023.
With repeated assignments in the International Organisations Directorates, stints in three United Nations capital as well as being Deputy Chief Negotiator at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-21) in Paris, Syed Noureddin is a committed multilateralist keen on building consensus and achieving outcomes that leave no one behind.
He brings the same ethos towards strengthening the bilateral between Singapore and the Sultanate of Oman.
Syed Noureddin holds a Bachelor of Science in Estate Management (Honours) from the National University of Singapore and a Master of International Affairs (Distinction) from the Australian National University.
He is fluent in English and Malay, understands French and German, and is trying to pick up Arabic.
Diplomatic relations between Singapore and Oman were established in 1985, and the Consulate-General was upgraded to an Embassy in January 2023. How do you perceive the current state of bilateral relations between the two countries, and what areas do you think have seen the most significant development?
Syed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim: We have had diplomatic relations with Oman for nearly 40 years now. A major milestone is our decision to upgrade our representations in both Oman and Singapore from consulate generals to full-fledged embassies, headed by Chargé D’affaires. This decision was made during the Singapore-Oman Strategic Dialogue in December 2022, marking a significant shift in our relationship, which has been longstanding. Singapore and Oman share many commonalities, despite the thousands of kilometers that separate us across the Indian Ocean. The recent visit of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq to Singapore was particularly noteworthy. It was not only the first visit by a Sultan of Oman to Singapore but also the first visit by Sultan Haitham since his accession in January 2020. This visit was another major milestone in our relationship.
Singapore and Oman share many commonalities, despite the thousands of kilometers that separate us across the Indian OceanSyed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
During His Majesty’s visit, exchanges occurred at various levels, with Oman Vision 2040 taking center stage. His Majesty, being one of the main architects of Vision 2040, provided significant insight into Oman’s direction for the future. The economic and digitalization aspects of this vision will play a pivotal role in the relationship between Singapore and Oman. As the representative of Singapore in Oman, my role involves flying the Singapore flag and working towards enhancing, deepening, and strengthening our relationship. His Majesty’s visit has added impetus and motivation for us to elevate the relationship to new heights.
The visit included meetings with Singapore’s leaders, including the President, the Prime Minister, and the Deputy Prime minister. These interactions involved briefings on our Smart Nation initiative and our Future Economic Council.
For Singapore, as a small country, technology and digitalization are crucial catalysts and facilitators for growth. We believe that Oman shares a similar interest in working together to achieve common goals. We acknowledge that, despite our achievements in Singapore, there is always room for learning, and we are eager to share our experiences with other countries, including Oman, with whom we maintain a strong relationship.
We believe that Oman shares a similar interest in working together to achieve common goalsSyed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
Oman Vision 2040 has garnered international recognition, especially for its impact on the economy. How does Singapore view Oman’s economic strategy, and what potential collaborations or partnerships do you foresee arising from it?
Syed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim: During the visit, a noteworthy development was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry Investment Promotion. This MoU focuses on cooperation in economic development, encompassing various facets of the economy and industry.
Additionally, there was another MoU signed, emphasizing collaboration in youth and sports. You might wonder about the connection between youth, sports, and the economy, but It is intriguing. There is a significant emphasis on youth development and employment in Oman. A discussion took place between the Minister of Commerce, Industry Investment Promotion, and the Minister of Community, Culture, and Youth in Singapore, exploring opportunities. Youth, with their exuberance and energy, play a crucial role. In Oman, you have youth centers, serving as a gathering place and an idea incubator, especially for startups. The idea is to explore collaboration, engaging youth in the economy.
There is a significant emphasis on youth development and employment in OmanSyed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
It also serves as an incubator for ideas. Therefore, the thought process revolves around exploring how we can cooperate and collaborate to involve the youth in the economy.
They will likely contribute significantly because the wealth of ideas, knowledge, and energy they possess can drive Oman’s economy forward. This aligns well with Oman Vision 2040, considering It is a 15-year horizon. The youth of today will become the industry leaders of tomorrow. It is crucial and ties in with the vision for 2040. The key areas of focus include smart cities, green energy, aquaculture, and tourism, all of which were discussed.
Singapore companies are keen on exploring opportunities in these areas. Already, several Singapore companies are operating here, with Sembcorp being a prominent one. As an infrastructure energy company, they have been involved in solar, desalination, and power generation. Currently, they are working on solar power generation in Oman and expressing interest in hydrogen. Singapore-based funds are also engaged in hydrogen in the block, which received an award in 2023.
Singapore-based funds are also engaged in hydrogen in the block, which received an award in 2023Syed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
These are areas where there is significant potential for collaboration. Hydrogen, especially, stands out as a key feature in the economic forum, showcasing tremendous potential. In the global drive towards net zero, hydrogen emerges as a crucial fuel for the future. Oman, like Singapore, is actively seeking greener fuel options. The country is making substantial investments in hydrogen, and we are keenly interested in these developments.
For Singapore, achieving net zero is a unique challenge due to our alternative energy disadvantage. Despite our small size, we aim to have 50% of our energy sourced from hydrogen. The constraints of being a small territory prevent us from relying solely on solar or wind energy. To put it into perspective, you could fit 425 Singapores into Oman. It emphasizes the need for us to look outward and explore collaborative opportunities.
We value relationships with those who reciprocate, and our shared values provide a strong foundation for further nurturing and capitalizing on this relationshipSyed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
While Oman is larger in landmass, our similar population sizes and shared attributes as maritime nations make us compatible partners. Both nations are outward-looking and supportive of a rules-based international order. We value relationships with those who reciprocate, and our shared values provide a strong foundation for further nurturing and capitalizing on this relationship.
In light of the 40% increase in Omani non-oil exports to Singapore, what measures or initiatives are being considered to sustain and potentially enhance this growth in the coming years?
Syed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim: A key factor in our trade relations is the GCC Singapore Free Trade Agreement. Oman, being a member of the GCC, finds this agreement essential in facilitating trade and economic development between the two countries. Currently, we are in the process of upgrading the GCC FTA to incorporate new technologies and the emerging digital economy. This collaborative effort aims to mutually benefit both nations. Additionally, back in 2009, we signed the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, followed by the Investment Guarantee Agreement. These agreements provide a solid foundation for enhancing economic relations.
Currently, we are in the process of upgrading the GCC FTA to incorporate new technologies and the emerging digital economySyed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
Looking at the trade figures from 2021 to 2022, bilateral trade increased from 1.02 billion SGD to 1.36 billion SGD. This rise in trade has elevated Oman’s position from the eighth to the seventh largest partner in MENA and from the 67th to the 55th largest globally.
During the visit, there discussion about collaborating on the Digital Economy. Singapore has already signed Digital Economic Partnership Agreements with New Zealand and Chile. Exploring the possibility of such an agreement with Oman was discussed. This agreement would delve into the digital economy, which is increasingly becoming the focus for the future.
The overall outlook is promising, and we are committed to working on it. The political will is evident, and the drive to progress is strong. As they say here, InshaAllah, we will make the progress we hope to achieve.
From Singapore’s perspective, what opportunities and challenges do you see for Omani companies in Southeast Asia, and how can both nations collaborate to address these?
Syed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the similarity and the existence of the GCC-Singapore FTA lay a strong foundation for mutual collaboration. We view each other as gateways into our respective regions, and this presents a significant opportunity. Several Omani companies, such as Bank Muscat, OQ, and ASYAD, have already established a presence in Singapore. Given Singapore’s role as a regional headquarters for many countries, these companies can leverage their position to connect with others and establish a foothold in the ASEAN region.
During my time in Singapore, I received numerous congratulations from my colleagues on the historic visit by His Majesty. It is important to highlight that this visit is not just significant for Singapore; it benefits the entire region. As the tide rises, all vessels rise together, symbolizing shared prosperity. For Singaporean companies seeking to expand into the region, Oman serves as another strategic launch pad due to its connections not only within the GCC but also to Iran, India, and East Africa.
Several Omani companies, such as Bank Muscat, OQ, and ASYAD, have already established a presence in SingaporeSyed Noureddin Bin Syed Hassim
The Omani delegation emphasized Oman’s strategic location, reaching out to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean without being constrained by geographical bottlenecks like the Straits of Hormuz or Bab Al-Mandab. This geographic advantage opens up opportunities for extensive collaboration.
In essence, we have a bright outlook, and there is immense potential for collaboration, allowing us to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by our strategic locations to reach a wider regional audience.