Opening Address by Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Senior Parliamentary Secretary of Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law, at SIAC Mumbai Conference
15 Sep 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Ms Lucy Reed, President of SIAC Court of Arbitration
Mr Cyril Shroff, Member of SIAC Board of Directors
Ms Gloria Lim, CEO of SIAC
Colleagues from SIAC
Friends from Singapore and India
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. A very good afternoon.
2. It is my pleasure to join all of you here today, at the SIAC Mumbai Conference.
3. Our Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong, whom some of you may know, had planned to be here, to support SIAC. But unfortunately, he couldn’t make it this time, due to other commitments. He sends his regrets, as well as his regards.
Mumbai’s Rapid Development
4. This is my first official trip to Mumbai. My first trip to Mumbai was maybe about ten years ago – I was preparing an affidavit for a client. When I came back, and stepped out of the airport, I was pleasantly surprised by the developments.
5. I had the opportunity to take in some sights of Mumbai just now, in the car, driving through to the Lower Parel area and then to the hotel. I can see the city bustling with life and activity – full of character, with a mix of historic and modern landmarks. The Parel neighbourhood was impressive, with its iconic skyscrapers, especially when considering that the area was still dominated by textile mills and factories, just 2-3 decades ago.
6. I was at One World Centre just now. It is well-designed, and offers world-class amenities – on par with some of the world’s best commercial office spaces. This shows how far Mumbai has come, in a relatively short period of time – quite amazing!
7. Mumbai, as the financial capital, now contributes disproportionately to Maharashtra’s economy, which in turn, contributes disproportionately to India’s economy. Maharashtra, which is one of India’s 28 states and 8 union territories, accounted for 14% of GDP, 28% of foreign direct investment (FDI), 15% of industrial output, and 20% of exports in India in 2022.
8. This is expected to increase further, as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region has recently been selected as one of the four pilot cities, to propel India’s growth from a US$3.4 trillion economy to a US$5 trillion economy by 2030. Growth sectors include hospitality, tourism, construction, financial services, education, health, logistics, and transport.
9. All these present immense opportunities for the legal practitioners amongst you. We always say, law follows business. As investments, trade and commerce grow, demand for legal services will also grow – from upstream corporate and commercial work to downstream disputes work. So, there is a lot to be excited about.
Potential for Singapore-Mumbai Collaborations
10. I find Mumbai similar to Singapore in a number of ways. We are both a financial and business hub, home to many multi-national corporations; we are both well connected to global markets; and we both have a diverse, educated, and skilled workforce, to support our economies, just to name a few.
11. Because of these similarities, people may think that there is very little incentive for us as competitors to work together. On the contrary, I think this cannot be further from the truth. I think there is a lot of potential for collaboration.
12. We serve somewhat different roles in the global economy. Mumbai serves as a base for many international businesses, looking to access India, while Singapore serves as a gateway to Southeast Asia.
13. Even if there may be competition in some areas, it is friendly competition, and there is really more than enough work for everyone. India is set to become the 3rd largest economy, while ASEAN is set to become the 4th largest economy in the world by 2030 – that is just 7 years away. Taken together, it is a huge market.
14. It can only serve us well, if we come together to strengthen the region’s value propositions. It will provide businesses operating, investing, trading and transacting in this part of the world more options, and make the region more attractive to them. It will also push our people to do better.
15. On the other hand, if we compete in an unhealthy way, it will only lead to uncertainty and instability. It will distract us, and result in a lose-lose situation for everyone.
16. For these reasons, Singapore takes an open and collaborative approach in many areas, including in the legal and dispute resolution sector.
17. Take SIAC for example. SIAC trains Indian practitioners on international arbitration, using the best Singapore and international trainers they have. Some of you may have attended the SIAC Academy yesterday, and I am sure you have benefitted from the discussions. The SIAC Academy is an initiative that SIAC launched in 2017, and I understand that they have conducted this programme in India a number of times since then. I know Gloria and her team have been very, very busy.
18. SIAC also organises conferences like today, inviting not just Singapore practitioners, but also Indian practitioners to share their experiences and expertise.
19. SIAC also works with their Indian counterparts, to jointly promote international arbitration. This extends even to institutions whom you would consider to be their direct competitors, like the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA). SIAC invited them to contribute articles in their newsletters, and so, they are sharing information about MCIA.
20. SIAC also regularly appoints Indian practitioners on their Board and Court. The Board oversees SIAC’s operations, business strategy and development, as well as corporate governance matters; and the Court supervises SIAC’s case administration. These are the two most important bodies within SIAC.
21. SIAC has been very fortunate to have extremely eminent Indian practitioners on their Board and Court, who generously share their time, insights, views, and suggestions with us. We had the late Mr Rajiv Luthra, who served on SIAC Board, up till his passing. We now have Mr Cyril Shroff on the Board, and Mr Darius Khambata, Mr Tejas Karia, Mr Harish Salve KC, and Mr Vijayendra Pratap Singh on the Court. We deeply appreciate their commitment, and their friendship.
22. We also enjoy warm relations, at the government-to-government level. In fact, the Chief Justice of India Dr Chandrachud just visited Singapore last week, at the invitation of the Singapore Academy of Law, to speak at their Annual Lecture. Our Minister Shanmugam had lunch with him, together with our Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
23. We are also in discussion with India’s Ministry of Law and Justice on how we can further strengthen our legal cooperation.
24. The good relations we enjoy at the different levels are mutually beneficial to both sides. It is something, which we treasure very much.
Singapore’s Legal and Dispute Resolution Offerings
25. The warm bilateral relations is especially important to Indian companies, which are doing business in, from, and through Singapore, and vice versa. They do not have to worry about geopolitical tensions. They can make business decisions, based on what are best for them, including where to procure services, where to restructure their companies, and where to resolve their disputes.
26. On dispute resolution, Indian parties will naturally prefer Indian law firms and lawyers to advise them, as well as Indian forum to resolve any disputes that may arise. However, it is also not surprising for the non-Indian counterparties to likewise prefer their own jurisdictions.
27. In such circumstances, I think Singapore offers a good alternative choice.
(a) We have a trusted legal system, and strong rule of law. Regardless of whether you are a big or small law firm, big or small company, the law applies equally.
(b) We have an open regime. Parties are free to choose their own counsel and arbitrators. This means that the Indian practitioners amongst you can still support your clients, without the need to engage a Singapore firm, if you choose not to.
(c) We provide purpose-built facilities for arbitration hearings, with trained staff, security and other features, at Maxwell Chambers. Places, like hotels, offices and shared work space, while functional, are just not the same.
28. For India, we also offer additional advantages.
(a) Like India, we are a common law jurisdiction, and English-speaking.
(b) We have Indians on SIAC panel of arbitrators, and SIAC Secretariat, who may be more familiar with your needs, and the cultural nuances.
(c) There are also many flights between Singapore and India, which makes travel easy. Travel time is not too long, and visa application is quick.
(d) Of course, there are other soft factors, like good Indian food in Singapore. That also plays a part!
29. This is why many Indian parties are comfortable in using Singapore and SIAC to resolve their disputes over the years. Indian parties are consistently ranked among the top foreign users at SIAC. Many of these are international cases, that is between an Indian and a non-Indian party.
30. For those who have used Singapore to resolve your dispute before, I hope you can identify with what I have said. And for those who have not yet used Singapore, you only need to use us once, to know that what I said is true!
31. I shall end here. Thank you for listening to me.
32. I look forward to interacting with you at the refreshment break and the networking drinks later.
33. Please do share your views on what Singapore, and India and Mumbai can do together. As Gloria has said in her welcome remarks, we are happy to hear your feedback, because we would like to improve and see how we can do to build these relations better. I would love to hear your ideas, and thoughts, and suggestions.
34. I wish you a good evening ahead. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 15 September 2023