Important for Singapore to uphold close ties with Indonesia: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo at the Istana in Bogor, Indonesia, on Feb 4, 2020. Madam Halimah is on a four-day state visit to Indonesia. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

YOGYAKARTA - Indonesia's rapidly-growing economy presents tremendous business opportunities for Singapore, making it important to upkeep the good bilateral relations shared by the two countries, said President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (Feb 6).

She also gave suggestions to strengthen the already close relationship the two countries have, such as upholding the commitment from leaders on both sides for mutual prosperity as well as organising collaborations that play to each other's strengths.

President Halimah was speaking to the media in Yogyakarta on the last day of her four-day state visit to Indonesia, which focused on highlighting areas of cooperation between the two countries and finding new ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

"Indonesia is one of the fastest growing economies dealing with the digital economy. It is not something new but presents tremendous opportunities for our businesses in the area of IT infrastructure, data services, fintech and artificial intelligence," she said.

"So, there are areas where I think there's a lot of possible synergies between Singapore and Indonesia, for Singaporean businessmen and Indonesian businesses to develop."

Indonesia's Internet economy is the largest and fastest-growing in the region, on track to cross the US$130 billion (S$177 billion) mark by 2025, according to a report last October report by Google, Temasek Holdings and global business consultants Bain & Company.

Trade and investment ties between Singapore and Indonesia are close, with total trade amounting to $65 billion in 2018, a 9.4 per cent rise over the previous year. Singapore has also been Indonesia's top foreign investor for the past six years.

In 2016, the 2,700ha Kendal Industrial Park in the city of Semarang - a joint venture between Singapore's Sembcorp Development and Indonesia's industrial estate developer Jababeka - was officially opened.

It has since attracted investments valued at US$843 million (S$1.1 billion) and will create more than 8,000 jobs, which Madam Halimah on Thursday said is a "very significant" figure.

A key priority area for Indonesia and its president, Mr Joko Widodo, is human resource development, a field which Singapore has already been helping its neighbour with, noted President Halimah.

She had earlier mentioned that Singapore and Indonesia have signed more than 20 agreements to conduct training programmes that will help thousands of Indonesian officials and trainers scale up and better meet the demands of an ever-changing digital economy.

Madam Halimah's visit officially started on Tuesday (Feb 4) in the capital Jakarta, where she met her Indonesian counterpart and witnessed the signing of an updated Avoidance of Double Tax Agreement between the two countries.

She also visited a humanitarian project started by the Singapore International Foundation and met Indonesian religious and interfaith leaders as well as overseas Singaporeans there.

On Wednesday, she met and was hosted to dinner by Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X in Yogyakarta. She also had a dialogue with students of Gadjah Mada University and visited BLOCK71 Yogyakarta, a start-up incubation community established by NUS Enterprise in partnership with Indonesian conglomerate the Salim Group.

Thanking the Indonesian leaders and people for their warmth and hospitality, Madam Halimah said on Thursday that she happy to see people-to-people collaborations between organisations from the two countries.

Noting that leaders from both countries already talk to one another often, Madam Halimah urged them to find more platforms to have conversations, as it would reflect a strong shared commitment for peace, growth and prosperity between Singapore and Indonesia.

Complementing each other's strengths in collaborations between both countries will help to bring Singapore and Indonesia closer together too, she added.

"No individual has all the strengths - countries are the same. Countries have different strengths, different capabilities, (so) we need to be able to leverage on that. We can grow faster together, to benefit both our countries," she said.

Madam Halimah's state visit to Indonesia is her first for the year, and marks the first by a Singapore head of state to the country in about eight years.

This follows her visits last year to Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Philippines.

President Halimah returns to Singapore on Thursday.

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