Room for more collaboration with Indonesia: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko Widodo viewing a joint fly-past by the Singapore and Indonesian air forces yesterday to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations, along with Mrs Lee and First Lady Iriana. Also present was Defence Minist
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko Widodo viewing a joint fly-past by the Singapore and Indonesian air forces yesterday to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations, along with Mrs Lee and First Lady Iriana. Also present was Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (far left, background).ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Economic links can be boosted in sectors like tourism, infrastructure and digital economy

Singapore has long been Indonesia's top investor, and that fruitful collaboration can be strengthened in sectors such as tourism, infrastructure and developing a digital economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Mr Lee noted that the need for deeper economic links between both countries has grown more significant as technological disruption opens up new opportunities, even as it generates uncertainty and fierce competition for companies.

He told the Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum that companies here have expertise that complements Indonesia's development priorities in infrastructure development in the transport and energy sectors, for instance.

The event at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, which is part of efforts to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Jakarta and Singapore, attracted more than 600 business leaders and government representatives of both countries.

With more than 2,000 Indonesian businesses already operating here, Mr Lee said he was pleased that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is actively promoting investments from Singapore.

"We both have promising start-up companies, investors, entrepreneurs and companies in this sector see many opportunities to collaborate," he added.

 

"For example, we have jointly established start-up networking platforms like EV Hive and Block 71 in Jakarta to cross-fertilise ideas."

 

Mr Joko told the forum: "We are witnessing a historic boom in e-commerce companies in Indonesia. Today, we have several unicorns, or digital start-up companies, with a valuation of US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion). And given the size of our domestic market, we will have many more in the years to come.

 

"Twenty years ago, Batam was for Singapore what Shenzhen was for Hong Kong."

 

But today, Batam could serve as a "digital bridge" between Singapore and many of Indonesia's fast-growing digital communities in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Bali and other cities.

 

Deeper bilateral and economic cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia in growing sectors such as tourism and infrastructure was also highlighted at the forum.

PM Lee said that both leaders will open discussions on a new bilateral investment treaty, which "will strengthen investors' confidence that Indonesia is open and ready for business and foreign investment".

Attracting more infrastructure investment in cruise tourism is one key area.

Mr Lee noted: "Larger ships are coming into service. These ships will need new infrastructure, especially larger ports, berths and marinas. With this infrastructure in Singapore and the right infrastructure in place across the region, new cruise routes and itineraries can be opened up."

Mr Joko noted that both countries see "great opportunity in marine tourism".

"The continuing rise of hundreds of millions of people in China, India and the Asia-Pacific into the global middle class is leading to a tourism boom of historic proportions," he added.

He said his government has implemented a programme called 10 New Balis to transform 10 cities into priority tourism destinations modelled after Bali's success.

"There is tremendous opportunity for Singapore in the next 12 months as airports (such as) the Silangit airport in Lake Toba... will be converted to international airports," added Mr Joko.

"We look forward to many new airline routes being launched between Singapore and these new tourism destinations."

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman S.S. Teo said more Singapore businesses are looking to explore opportunities beyond Jakarta and Java, given that other cities in central and eastern Indonesia are still growing rapidly and are less saturated.

Yesterday's forum was organised by the SBF, the Economic Development Board, International Enterprise Singapore, the Indonesian Embassy, Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'Room for more collaboration with Indonesia: PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe