Batam could serve as 'digital bridge' between Singapore and cities across Indonesia, says President Joko Widodo

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a press conference at Istana Presidential palace in Singapore on Sept 7, 2017.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a press conference at Istana Presidential palace in Singapore on Sept 7, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The Indonesian island of Batam could serve as a "digital bridge" between Singapore and many of Indonesia's fast-growing cities, President Joko Widodo said during a visit to Singapore on Thursday (Sept 7).

President Joko and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong were among key dignatories who spoke at the Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum - part of the two countries' efforts to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Jakarta and Singapore.

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

The event was organised by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the Economic Development Board (EDB), International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore), the Indonesian embassy here, Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).

It was attended by more than 600 business leaders and government representatives of the two countries at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.


The forum aims to provide insights into growth opportunities and how best companies can position themselves to tap into niche sectors as Indonesia gears up to transform 10 cities into priority tourism destinations modelled after Bali's success.

"Today's investment forum focuses on the theme of tourism. Just last year, Indonesia received 12 million international tourists, of which nearly one-and-a-half million, or more than 12 per cent, were from Singapore. This has potential to grow, especially if connectivity can be enhanced and the right infrastructure developed," PM Lee said.

"Bapak President Joko Widodo and his Ministers have identified ten priority tourism destinations in Indonesia for development and this presents business opportunities. International Enterprise Singapore has already brought leisure and property development companies like SUTL Enterprise, KOP, and Ascott to Sulawesi, Sumatra, and East Java for them to consider developing hotels, attractions, and Mice facilities there," he added.

President Joko hailed this as a "tremendous opportunity for Singapore in the next 12 months," and "looks forward to new air routes being launched" to the 10 priority tourism destinations.

He also noted a "historic opportunity in today's digital revolution".

"We are witnessing a historic boom in e-commerce companies in Indonesia. We have several unicorns, each with a valuation of US$1 billion. 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. Today, Batam must ... become the digital bridge, a springboard connecting Singapore to other digital economies in cities including Jogjakarta, Bandung and other cities around Indonesia," President Joko told the forum.

SBF chairman Mr SS Teo said more Singapore businesses are looking to explore opportunities beyond Jakarta and Java, given that other Indonesia cities in the Central and Eastern parts of Indonesia are still growing rapidly and are less saturated compared to West Java.

Indonesia holds vast potential for businesses as it allows access to a market worth over US$861 billion and is home to a population of more than 260 million.