Introducing the new Ambassador of Sweden to Singapore

When it was time to leave Beijing to start afresh, Mr Pär Ahlberger was determined to begin his new life in Singapore. His decision remained steadfast when it came time for applications for an overseas posting; he reserved his submission only for Singapore.
In September 2006, his persistence paid off and he was appointed Ambassador of Sweden to Singapore.
 Before joining the Embassy of Sweden in Singapore, Mr Ahlberger held several positions in organisations such as the Swedish National Research Establishment, the Swedish Red Cross, and the EU Commission in Brussels and the EFTA Secretariat in Geneva. 
 During the late 1990s, he was the Director at the Office of the Minister of Trade before being posted at the Embassy of Sweden in Copenhagen, Denmark and most recently, as Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Sweden in Beijing, China. 
 Mr Ahlberger felt confident his experience in Beijing, knowledge in freight, investments, science and culture would serve him well in Singapore’s Swedish Embassy.
 “I’ve always had high expectations of Singapore,” said Mr Ahlberger, “All of which are fulfilled…I appreciate how when promises are made, they are delivered with efficiency and a warm, sincere thought.”
 Such as how after a few weeks of arriving in Singapore with a craving for traditional Swedish cakes, the Ambassador and his wife searched for the elusive cardamom powder, an essential ingredient in making the cakes, to no avail. Eight weeks later, by chance, they stumbled upon a quiet little shop in Little India where they were finally able to get hold of the powder. 
 “They were kind and even offered to grind the cardamom seeds into powder for us.,” recalls the Ambassador, “ It is a small issue but it was still a pleasant encounter that makes me cherish my time here in Singapore even more.”
 With three major tasks to tackle, time is an commodity which Mr Ahlberger cannot afford to waste during his stay.
 The first priority on his list is promoting the rich history and ties between Sweden and Singapore, especially to young Swedes living in Singapore and Singaporeans. 
 Since his inception as Ambassador of Sweden, Mr Ahlberger has already held three dinners with a total of 150 guests, consisting of Swedes as well as Singaporeans who have studied and lived in Sweden. The dinners were organized to express his encouragement towards visions of their future, whether in Sweden or Singapore. 
 According to Mr Ahlberger, the youths of Singapore and Sweden are important representatives as they are the future generation and pillars of each nation. Plans for an alumni network, similar to another network that he created in Beijing for students are currently being established with hopes that once it is running, Young Professionals – a branch of the Swedish Business Association of Singapore will take charge of the project. 
 However, Mr Ahlberger’s focus is not on youths only. His other responsibility is to serve as a representative for Swedish companies in Singapore and the rest of Asia. Governmental relations is the core business of the embassy such as assisting companies with the local authorities and regulations, broadening and deepening business relations and developing the business traffic between Sweden and Singapore. 
 He maintains that the image of Sweden is also a joint responsibility shared by the companies based in Singapore and himself.
 “The way an individual company and I behave will ultimately reflect on Sweden, the people and its culture.” Mr Ahlberger noted, “This gives us perfect reason to work together to build up Sweden’s reputation in Singapore.”
 With already a hundred and seventy companies based in Singapore, the Scandinavian business community within Singapore is one of the largest in the region. Mr Ahlberger acknowledges that the business climate is already perfect, even for companies that are just starting up. This is because he feels that Singapore and Sweden share very similar ideologies and priorities in building businesses and strengthening the economy. 
 An example of this theory is in Bio-technology, an area where both countries are investing huge amounts of time, finance and manpower for research and development. Specifically during this period when outbreaks such as SARs, bird flu and threats of bio-terrorism are on the rise. The Karolinska Institute, located in Stockholm, is one of Europe’s largest medical universities. It is Sweden’s largest centre of medical training and research and works closely with the National University of Singapore and A*Star, a Singaporean agency specializing in science, technology and research to develop human capital.
 Another area that is in the process of development and in which both nationalities can collaborate is design. Though not as developed or as heavily funded as bio-tech, it will help in broadening not only the business market but bridging the gap between Nordic and Asian cultures.
 Emily, an industrial design student previously from Temasek Polytechnic secured an internship with the Ikea headquarters in Sweden. She started out by designing a handful of products and was credited for incorporating Nordic and Singaporean aspects into all her designs. When she later moved to Gothenburg, another company purchased and patented one of her ideas.
 Mr Ahlberger also observed while there is already a strong focus and support for design in Nordic countries, the interest in Singapore is growing slowly but surely. 
 One can find examples of Nordic designs in Singapore at showrooms like Ikea where there is a concentration of democratic, practical and economical designs and Style Nordic, a furnishing and fashion boutique that carries higher-end products or Prints, a successful chain of upmarket outlets carrying contemporary paper products in Singapore. Prints was started by designer Lars Vikman, who not only designs his products but the furnishings in his shops as well. 
 Mr Ahlberger has hopes that with the help of Young Professionals, they can draw young Swedes and Swedish companies in Singapore or vice versa together and that these corporations would take the younger generation under their wing; he firmly believes it is the duty of these companies’ to aid these fresh faces in the industry as they are beneficial to the future of the economy and ties between Singapore and Sweden. 
 Mr Ahlberger’s final task is highlighting Singapore’s business climate to the companies located in Sweden, where China is presently a strong business focal point. 
 “There is no doubt that China and the rest of Asia is the future,” affirms Mr Ahlberger, “but they must also learn that Singapore is the gateway to that ‘tomorrow’.”

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