SINGAPORE — Singapore and Indonesian leaders yesterday welcomed the growing economic partnership between both countries, as they pushed for greater cooperation in the area of infrastructure development and digital economy.
Discussions on boosting economic, trade and investment links between the two neighbours featured prominently at the Leaders’ Retreat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo at the Istana yesterday.
“Since our last Leaders’ Retreat, cooperation projects have been progressing, including investments and skills training, digital economy and initiatives to support regional growth and development in Indonesia,” said Mr Lee at a press conference after he held talks with Mr Widodo.
“Both leaders noted the strong existing cooperation in trade, investment and tourism, with Singapore being the top contributor of realised investments in Indonesia in 2016 amounting to US$9.2 billion (S$12.4 billion), and the top source of visitors to Indonesia in 2016 with 1.47 million visitors,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement in the evening.
Both countries were also ready to start negotiations on a new Bilateral Investment Treaty, “which will further strengthen economic cooperation and investment flows”, the statement said.
It added that the leaders also discussed cooperation in investments and skills training, particularly in the Kendal Industrial Park (KIP) which they jointly opened last year during their first retreat. To date, KIP has attracted 32 confirmed tenants with committed investment totalling US$475 million and the potential to create employment for up to 4,000 workers.
“They welcomed plans to set up a polytechnic in KIP to upskill local workers, which will increase labour competitiveness and improve the attractiveness of KIP as an investment destination,” said the MFA statement.
Speaking at the joint press conference, Mr Widodo said Singapore has become Indonesia’s main partner in trade, investment and tourism, adding that the establishment of the Indonesia-Singapore Investment Council last July will further boost ties between the two countries’ business communities.
He also stressed the importance of digital economy, saying: “This is no longer an option. It is now imperative. This will be a priority for Indonesia and Singapore. If we can combine ... investment, technology with talent and youth market potential, then the digital economy cooperation will make Indonesia as well as Singapore’s economy even stronger.”
Mr Widodo added that Batam is an ideal location for this, with the development of a digital cluster and a start-up incubator.
Speaking later at a Singapore-Indonesia investment forum, Mr Lee said there is strong potential for future collaboration in other sectors, such as infrastructure development in the transport and energy industries, as well as the digital economy. He also said there is great potential to grow tourism between the two countries further, especially with the “right infrastructure and improved connectivity.”
The MFA statement also said Mr Lee and Mr Widodo discussed a new frontier in bilateral collaboration in the digital economy sector, noting that they welcomed the recent establishment of two start-up “Launchpads” – EV Hive landing pad by East Ventures and SGInnovate, and BLOCK71@Jakarta by NUS Enterprise and Salim Group, an incubation facility for more than 20 start-ups from Singapore and Indonesia. “Through these platforms, start-ups from both countries can network with one another, access cost competitive co-working spaces, and scale-up their business,” MFA said.