Singapore-Indonesia partnerships should be strengthened amid global economic uncertainty: President Halimah

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singapore President Halimah Yacob inspecting an honour guard at the Bogor Palace on Feb 4, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Continued efforts to strengthen the relationship between Singapore and Indonesia are necessary in the current climate of global economic uncertainty, said Singapore President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (Feb 4).

In affirming the "deep, longstanding and multi-faceted" relationship between the two countries that has spanned over 50 years, Madam Halimah highlighted several areas of cooperation including the economy, human resource development and people-to-people ties.

"As good neighbours, our two countries have reaped opportunities and tackled challenges together," she said.

"In the midst of the global economic uncertainty and other challenges that we face today, it is all the more important for Singapore to work closely together for the mutual benefit of peoples from the two countries."

Madam Halimah was speaking at a joint press conference with her Indonesian counterpart President Joko Widodo, held at the Istana in Bogor.

In his remarks, President Joko reaffirmed the close ties between the two countries, and thanked Singapore for its continued support of Indonesia.

They had earlier witnessed the signing of an updated Avoidance of Double Tax Agreement between the two countries.

Madam Halimah is on a four-day visit to Indonesia, which started on Monday when she arrived in Jakarta with her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, and was received by Indonesian Minister of Industry Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

The state visit is her first to Indonesia and the first by a Singapore head of state to the country in about eight years.

At the press conference, Madam Halimah noted that the signing of the updated tax agreement reflects how there is still room for the Singapore-Indonesia economic partnership to be strengthened.

The updated agreement, which first came into force in 1991, will lower the withholding tax rate for royalties and branch profits.

Singapore and Indonesia share close trade and investment ties, with bilateral trade amounting to $65 billion in 2018, a 9.4 per cent increase from the year before.

"Singapore has been Indonesia's top foreign investor for the past six years. This demonstrates Singapore's confidence in Indonesia's vibrant economy," said Madam Halimah, adding that the updated tax agreement will benefit businesses in both countries.

During their meeting, the two leaders also discussed Singapore-Indonesia partnership in human resource development.

President Halimah highlighted the establishment of the Kendal Polytechnic, an educational institute in Indonesia that will help produce trained workers for the Kendal Industrial Park.

The 2,700ha park in the bustling port city of Semarang, which was officially opened in 2016, has attracted investments valued at US$843 million ($1.15 billion) and will create more than 8,000 jobs, said President Halimah.

It is a joint venture between Singapore's Sembcorp Development and Indonesia's industrial estate developer PT Jababeka.

Cooperation between security agencies of the two countries are constantly being upgraded, said President Halimah, who noted how closely Singapore and Indonesia work to combat smuggling, the trafficking of illegal goods and other international crimes.

She said that strong cultural, educational and people-to-people ties anchor the relationship between the two countries, and cited efforts by the National Youth Council to partner organisations in Indonesia to bring Singaporean and Indonesian young people together.

After the press conference, President Halimah was hosted to a state banquet by President Joko, where she similarly reaffirmed the countries' strong bilateral ties and stressed the importance of doing more to strengthen them.

"This state visit underscores Singapore's firm commitment to working closely with Indonesia to create new economic synergies, strengthen political and defence relations, and deepen people-to-people ties," she said.

Before the two leaders met on Tuesday, Madam Halimah laid a wreath at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in Jakarta, as is customary for state visits to Indonesia.

She will be meeting Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin, as well as overseas Singaporeans living in Indonesia.

On Wednesday, she will travel to Yogyakarta, a city about an hour's flight east from Jakarta that is known to be a centre of culture and heritage for Indonesia.

There, she will have a dialogue with students of Gadjah Mada University, a renowned school in Indonesia, and visit BLOCK71 Yogyakarta, a start-up incubation community established by NUS Enterprise in partnership with the Salim Group.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.