TOKYO: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received the posthumous award of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on behalf of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on Wednesday (Sep 28).
The award, which was announced by the Japanese government this February recognises the founding Prime Minister's contributions to the development of relations between Singapore and Japan over several decades.
This is the first time the Order - the highest regularly conferred honour in the Japanese honours system - is posthumously awarded, and only the fifth time it is conferred to a foreigner. Previous recipients of the award are former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former US Senator Daniel Inouye, and former US Ambassadors to Japan Walter Mondale and Howard Baker.
The award ranks higher than the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, which founding Prime Minister Lee received in 1967.
On the third day of his four-day-long official visit to Japan, Mr Lee also held a summit meeting with Mr Abe, as well as met with Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai. Mr Nikai, 77, holds the party’s number two post, after Prime Minister Abe, who is party president.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai (Photo: MCI)
Mr Lee also hosted eight leaders of major Japanese multinationals to lunch. They include leaders from conglomerates like Hitachi, Fujitsu, Sumitomo Chemical, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, and Chugai Pharmaceutical.
Mr Lee told the business leaders that like Japan, Singapore is also in the process of transforming its economy, as it deals with a lower rate of workforce growth and an ageing workforce.
“The Prime Minister talked about the ageing society in Singapore. Japan is ahead of Singapore in terms of ageing, and my business is in pharmaceuticals, life sciences, healthcare… so I believe there is a lot we can collaborate on with Singapore,” said Osamu Nagayama, chairman and CEO of Chugai Pharmaceutical.
“Modern medicine requires a lot of knowledge of molecular biology, linking it with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things), and big data. We can do a lot to improve the state of health in your country and our country.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting Japanese business leaders (Photo: Linette Lim)
As Singapore’s second biggest source of foreign investment, Mr Lee said that Japanese businesses are well-placed to participate in Singapore’s upgrading process, from workforce training, to developing new areas of business, and transforming operations through technology.
Mr Lee added Singapore wants to maintain a pro-business environment, so as to allow its manufacturing and financial sectors to continue to grow, and to allow its partners to be able to plan forward in confidence.