Thursday, 30 July 2015

Singapore, Jakarta to further boost ties

Agreement to bolster economic, security ties and work closely on areas like tourism and anti-terror fight
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

Singapore and Indonesia yesterday agreed to further bolster their strong economic and security ties and step up cooperation on e-government, youth and sports development as well as tourism.

Both countries will also work closely to better tackle the threat of extremist terrorism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at a joint press conference after the signing of three agreements.

"We both worry about ISIS. We both have nationals from our countries involved in terrorist activities, including in the Middle East," Mr Lee said.



Mr Joko added that the two nations will share information on terrorism and militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

More than 500 Indonesians are estimated to have joined ISIS. Yesterday, Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry said it had detained a 51-year-old Singaporean for trying to join the group.

Mr Joko is on a two-day state visit to Singapore, accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo and several key ministers.

He will be back in Singapore next month, to attend the National Day Parade on Aug 9.

Yesterday morning, his visit began with a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, after which he called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Later, he met Mr Lee and they witnessed the signing of three memoranda of understanding for greater cooperation in youth and sports development, and collaboration in business and e-government.

Mr Lee said at the press conference after the event that they had a good meeting on how they can build on already-solid ties.



Bilateral trade with Indonesia has been on an upward trend over the past 10 years, reaching $72.4 billion last year. And Singapore has consistently been among its top five investors, investing US$5.8 billion (S$7.9 billion) last year.

Both leaders also agreed to work together to draw more Singapore investors, especially to the special economic zone of Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

Mr Joko said Indonesia is looking seriously at setting up a special unit to settle problems in the zone, which has been hit by such woes as rising costs and labour disputes.

He and Mr Lee also discussed promoting both countries as a joint destination to attract more tourists.

They said they hoped to visit the planned Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang, a joint venture between SembCorp and Indonesian property developer Jababeka. Mr Lee said it is " a sign of our friendship, our cooperation and the potential for us to work more closely together for mutual benefit".

He also said the strong cooperation between both armed forces had to extend beyond "the top level, down to the ranks" to deepen mutual understanding.

Mr Joko said his visit to his country's closest neighbour and key partner provided a "new momentum" to build trust and mutually beneficial relations.

Indonesia also conveyed its appreciation to the Singapore Government for protecting the rights of Indonesian citizens and workers in Singapore, Mr Joko's communications team added.

Later, in an address to investors, Mr Joko urged them to look to Indonesia where "a new economic cycle is beginning". Investors who stayed during the 1997 financial crisis have made huge profits today, he said.

His day ended with a state banquet at the Istana that was hosted by President Tan, who hailed the longstanding ties between the two countries and their people.

"We should continue to nurture the many exchanges and interactions between our peoples at all ages and across many fields," Dr Tan said. "This will form the bedrock for developing and enhancing our mutual trust and understanding."




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President Tan pays tribute to strong bonds
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

Singapore's diplomatic ties with Indonesia go back five decades, but the two neighbours are also bound by centuries of shared heritage and traditions.

This strong historical bond should not be forgotten as both countries mark a significant milestone - their 50th year of diplomatic relations - next year, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said at a state banquet yesterday in honour of visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

In his speech, Dr Tan paid tribute to the strong ties between Singapore and Indonesia, and the longstanding and intimate bonds between their people.

"Merchants and traders have plied the sea routes across the Strait of Malacca and the Java Sea for centuries, buying and selling spices, crafts and other goods," he said.

Also, many Singaporean families can trace their roots back to Indonesian areas in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Kalimantan.

"Based on these strong and deep historical ties, the bilateral relationship between our two countries has grown from strength to strength," Dr Tan said. "We have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with each other in difficult times."

In the wake of the 2004 tsunami which devastated Aceh, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) sent its largest-ever deployment to help in relief and rehabilitation efforts.

A decade on, when AirAsia flight QZ8501 bound for Singapore from Surabaya went down, the SAF lent a hand once more in Indonesia's search and rescue efforts.

And many Singaporeans remember how Mr Joko and his wife Iriana made time to attend the funeral of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in March.

Singapore's excellent relationship with Indonesia continues to be underpinned by the close ties between their leaders, strong defence cooperation and economic collaboration, Dr Tan said.

Mr Joko, in his speech, said Indonesia is modernising to raise the living standards of its people, and presents economic opportunities for Singapore investors.

He also hoped for continued peace, prosperity and happiness between the two countries.

Dr Tan said both share a future that is dependent on the peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

"As is normal in relations between two old and close friends and neighbours, issues are bound to arise from time to time...

"I am confident that the firm foundation of our bilateral relationship will enable our two countries to continue to overcome any such issues in a constructive manner, by choosing positive solutions premised on mutual respect."





'Best time to invest' in Indonesia
Jokowi tells business leaders at dialogue that time is ripe for brave investors to venture in
By Marissa Lee, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

Indonesia is at the end of a commodities boom and in the midst of a cyclical downturn, but brave investors who venture in will "reap great profit", Indonesian President Joko Widodo said yesterday.

Mr Joko told those gathered at the Singapore-Indonesia business dialogue in Shangri-La Hotel:

"Today, we are once again confronting challenging times in Indonesia... The world looks full of uncertainty and risk.

"What does it all mean? It means that today is the time to invest - the best time to invest."

He urged the more than 150 business leaders at the event - organised by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Singapore Business Federation - to "invest early" in Asean's largest economy, where "a new economic cycle is beginning".

The President added: "The boom of commodities has come to an end. The boom of emerging markets has come to an end.

"But the social media revolution has begun. The smartphone revolution has begun. Around the world, around the region, and yes - also in Indonesia."

Mr Joko, 54, recalled that when the Asian financial crisis plunged Indonesia into a terrible crisis in 1997, many brave investors - Singaporeans among them - stayed invested.

"Today, those investors have made really huge profits," he said.

In an interview with The Straits Times ahead of his state visit to Singapore, Mr Joko challenged the market consensus when he said that the Indonesian economy could grow more than 5 per cent in this half of the year.

Indonesia's first-quarter growth of 4.7 per cent was the slowest in six years. The coal, natural gas and palm oil-exporting archipelago has been restricted by a slowdown in China.

But Mr Joko remains bullish: "Our economy will double in size. It may take only 10 years, it may take 15 years - it is difficult to predict but I am absolutely sure it will double."

Mr Joko opened the dialogue yesterday with a 17-minute pitch to Singapore businesses to be part of his country's growth story. He emphasised his seriousness in making infrastructure building the hallmark of his term in office.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, said that Singapore businesses are keen to contribute to Indonesia's infrastructure development.

"We understand an infrastructure task force will soon be set up in Indonesia to bypass regulations which might hamper infrastructure development projects," said Mr Iswaran. "These initiatives are important. If coupled with a stable and transparent business environment for companies, and a consistent message that foreign investments are welcome, they will create a conducive investment and business climate."

Yesterday marked Mr Joko's first official visit to Singapore, but not his first. He told the gathering to applause: "As you know, two of my children went to school in Singapore. My family and I like Singapore. We respect Singapore. We admire Singapore."





Bilateral tie-up leads to Batam shipbuilding course
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2015

Batam Polytechnic will soon offer a new shipbuilding and design course, thanks to a tie-up between organisations in Singapore and Indonesia.

A programme to equip about 40 teachers and specialists with the know-how to develop the course was organised this year by Batam Polytechnic and Singapore's Temasek Foundation and ITE Education Services.

It is supported by Singapore's Economic Development Board and Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs.

Three of the programme's participants yesterday received their certificates in the presence of President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.



Batam Polytechnic director Priyono Eko Sanyoto said: "In Batam, the shipyard industry is still growing so we have to prepare and meet its needs. We want to make sure our trainers have the experience and knowledge to pass on to students."

Earlier yesterday, both countries added to the collaboration by signing three agreements.

The first is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in e-government, signed by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim and Indonesia's Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Yuddy Chrisnandi.

Both sides will work more closely in sharing experiences and knowledge in e-government and explore possible bilateral projects.

The second MOU on cooperation in youth and sports development was signed by Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong and Indonesia's Minister for Youth and Sports Imam Nahrawi.

It will give athletes, the youth and agencies of both countries more opportunities to work together, said Mr Wong.

It will, for instance, pave the way for exchange visits and sharing of ideas and information on youth and sports issues. Joint training sessions could also be organised between their sports teams.

The third MOU provides for strategic economic cooperation between the Singapore Business Federation and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), and was signed by SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng and Kadin chairman Suryo Bambang Sulisto.

Its aims include fostering closer ties between the countries' small and medium-sized enterprises, and allowing for the sharing of sustainable agricultural practices and exchange of information and research on the latest economic developments.

The signing was held in the presence of President Joko and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee noted that both countries are close partners in many areas, including the economy, defence and people-to-people ties.

"So today, I am very happy to have witnessed the signing of the MOUs... because these will add more dimensions to our ties and draw us closer together," he said.


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