No answer to pressing VTL-question

Umins Balakrishnan Og Huitfelt

Meetings on the highest level gave no immediate answer to the VTL-question.
However, ambassador H.E Eivind S. Homme and NBAS-president Leonard O. Stornes are convinced that the good dialogue between Norway and Singapore will bear fruit in the long run.

Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, visited Oslo this week. In the wake of his visit, the Norwegian business community in Singapore still has a pressing question:

Why hasn’t Singapore granted Norway a so-called vaccinated travel lane?

The lack of a vaccinated travel lane or similar travel arrangement that allows persons to travel to Singapore without being quarantined, is an ailing thorn in the side for the Norwegian colony in Singapore.

Mixed picture for Norwegian companies

Norwegian business in Singapore during the pandemic paints a mixed picture.  On the one side: Many Norwegian companies have benefited from the generous supporting scheme Singaporean authorities put in place already early in the pandemic.

However, the strict travel-regime has also caused severe difficulties for many companies:

Key personnel in companies have not met for two years. Singaporean employees have not been able to go to Norway for training. And it’s largely hard to get Norwegian talent to Singapore, including innovative resources working closely with Singaporean eco-systems.

In addition to the challenges for the businesses, there are the psycho-social problems. Numerous families, including trailing spouses and children, have not seen family in Norway for 2-3 years.

Expects VTL to Norway

30 countries have a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) to Singapore. This means that that travellers from those countries don’t have to serve quarantine in Singapore. Among the countries with VTL are Australia, US, Germany and UK. Also our neighbours Finland, Sweden and Denmark, and countries like Hong Kong, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

A unanimous Norwegian business community hope and expect that Singapore includes Norway in the next round of VTLs.

Constant advocacy

No answer to pressing VTL-question
Ambassor H.E Eivind Homme

So, what is Norway’s chances of getting the long sought after VTL? We turned to Norway’s ambassador to Singapore, H.E Eivind Homme and NBAS-president, Leonard Stornes. They have been active advocating VTL for Norway, and other factors to get back the optimal operating environment for businesses as we know it from pre-pandemic times. Team Norway also includes Innovation Norway and their director Paul Kastmann, as well as NORWEP. The last months Team Norway has been conveying the message clearly. Latest they met Minister for Transport & Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, S Iswaran. NBAS also advocates through the EuroCham who convey the message on behalf of all European countries in Singapore.

Read: Team Norway-report reveals positive views on business conditions in Singapore amid challenges.

H.E Homme, who just returned from Norway (and now himself in SHN) after being there when Foreign Minister Huitfeldt received Foreign Minister Balakrishnan as her guest in Oslo, is clear. ‘The Singaporean government is well aware of the situation, and say they want to solve it as soon as possible. They also remind us that in Singapore it is of outmost importance to stay a well function economic and travel hub. But they are still struggling with the Omicron wave of Covid. I cannot promise anything on their behalf. However, all Norwegians in Singapore and our Singaporean partners can trust that we will continue to use every occasion to remind the Singaporean government of why they soon should find a solution to the VTL challenges for Norway.’

No answer to pressing VTL-question
From left to right. NBAS-president  Leonard Stornes, Director Innovation Norway Paul Kastmann, Technology advisor Innovation Norway Dr Per Christer Lund, Minister of Transport S. Iswaran and Ambassador H.E Eivind Homme

Singapore still an attractive hub

NBAS-President Stornes recently led a meeting with Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He headed up a group of Norwegian industry leaders in Singapore who informed the government on the current situation. He is impressed with the ambassador’s work for the business community and shares his sentiment. ‘NBAS and Team Norway continuously focus on improving the business environment for Norwegian owned businesses in Singapore.  VTL, LOC and EP are acronyms familiar to all. It goes without saying that we will keep working on informing and influencing decision makers to put in place policies that will enable the best possible operating environment in Singapore for our members’

Both ambassador H.E Homme and NBAS-president Stornes are convinced that the good dialogue between Norway and Singapore will bear fruit in the long run.  ‘There has always been a special bond and a good dialogue between Singapore and Norway. That Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishna in these times went to Norway, and there emphasized that our relations are excellent, demonstrates this. When we look a bit past the covid-crisis, I strongly believe that Singapore will remain one of the most attractive hubs for Norwegian companies ‘, says Stornes.

No answer to pressing VTL-question
Screen-shot from meeting with Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and Norwegian MFA: From left to right. Upper row 1: NBAS-president Leonard Stornes, CEO of Thome Olav Nortun, Resident partner SVW Torgeir Willumsen. Middle row 2: Director Innovation Norway Singapore Paul Kastmann, Head of Asia DNB Jan Fredrik Skjeltorp, Senior advisor MFA Knut Seim. Lower row: Deputy Director at Norwegian Ministry of Trade Industry and Fisheries Håvard Figenschou Raaen, Senior Advisor MFA Hildur Odland, Senior Vice President, Head of External Relations Asia at Telenor Group Håkon Bruaset Kjøl and Executive Director NBAS Anders Hegre.