Work closely with Indonesia to weather downturn

Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang.
Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang.PHOTO: SEMBCORP DEVELOPMENT LTD

The United States has seemingly started a trade war with almost every country in the world, but the one that will hurt Singapore's economy the most is its conflict with China.

Already we have seen retrenchments of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in the first quarter of this year, which may just be the start of a painful chapter.

Multinational corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are already starting to put on hold their hiring plans and working to relocate to more favourable places for business. If we don't move fast, we will be very badly hurt during the downturn.

Retraining retrenched PMETs will not work if no investors stay put in Singapore, and the Economic Development Board will have to offer more attractive options to compete with neighbouring countries that have cheaper labour, lower currency rates and plenty of land to spare.

Working closely with Indonesia is key to positioning Singapore as the main regional headquarters for vital supply chains.

Key investors' research and development offices located in Singapore can channel their manufacturing resources to factories in Indonesia to mass produce the materials for regional markets more efficiently.

For example, Singapore and Indonesia jointly developed Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang in late 2016.

Indonesia has many underdeveloped islands and a base of untapped labour, and SMEs and government-linked companies can work closely with the Government to help develop these as manufacturing bases, warehousing and more.

Gabriel Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2019, with the headline 'Work closely with Indonesia to weather downturn'. Print Edition | Subscribe