Singapore, Indonesia eye new cooperation projects

JAKARTA (The Straits Times/ANN) - Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan notes areas flagged by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, including infrastructure and investment.

Singapore and Indonesia are on the lookout for opportunities to work together more closely in infrastructure, investment and human resource development - three of the key areas Indonesian President Joko Widodo has flagged as crucial to helping his country weather turbulence in the global economy.

The age of digital disruption and shifts in global value chains will bring challenges, but it also offers new opportunities, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

He was speaking to Singapore media as he wrapped up a three-day working visit to Jakarta, which included a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, as well as a call on Mr Joko.

The trip, he said, gave him the opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of Mr Joko's priorities as the President gets set to start his second term in October.

In his first speech since his re-election, Mr Joko outlined on Sunday some key areas he would focus on in the five years ahead to make the country more "productive and competitive" amid rapid and unpredictable changes around the world.

Yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan noted: "We are at a point in time globally where people are reviewing their supply chains.

"This is an opportunity for both Indonesia and Singapore to work more closely together to attract investments, and to attract this vital global supply chain."

Some of the collaborations between Singapore and Indonesia were reviewed in the meetings while Dr Balakrishnan was in Jakarta.

The Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang, a joint venture between Singapore's Sembcorp Development and Indonesia's industrial estate developer PT Jababeka, is doing well, said the Singapore Foreign Minister.

Over half a billion US dollars in investments had flowed into the industrial park, jobs are being created, and Singapore has worked with Indonesia on establishing a polytechnic in the area to provide workers with the skills needed.

The leaders homed in on infrastructure, investment, and human resource development as areas to focus on for further collaboration.

"Both the President and Foreign Minister agreed these are areas where we should work together and work more closely together," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"So we are preparing for the Leaders' Retreat to identify new areas where we can do more together."

The date for the next Leaders' Retreat, which is set to take place in Singapore, has yet to be fixed.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "We'll get the homework done, and we want to make sure that our efforts dovetail with the President's own priorities on the domestic front as well."

Under President Joko, Indonesia has made a big push for vocational education, and is looking to ramp up its training capacity.

Singapore is well-placed to lend a hand in this, said Dr Balakrishnan. The two countries can work together more, for instance, on train-the-trainer initiatives which will help Indonesia scale up its own training capacity, he said.

"We really have an excellent vocational training sector in Singapore, and all the foreign visitors who have come to see our ITEs have been deeply impressed," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan said the key thing is to match skills to the emerging jobs, pointing out that just as Singapore is focused on this domestically, restructuring its economy and introducing initiatives such as the SkillsFuture programme to encourage life-long learning, "these same lessons that we glean from this journey are also relevant to our neighbourhood".

He also discussed with Ms Retno the Flight Information Region over the Riau Islands, which is currently managed by Singapore.

There has been progress, particularly in the discussions between Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his Indonesian counterpart Budi Karya Sumadi, said Dr Balakrishnan.

"This is not a question of sovereignty, and I'm glad that Minister Retno has also emphasised that. It's basically about improving safety and efficiency in one of the busiest and growing air sectors in the world," he said.

"We are having good discussions between the ministers of transport and between the civil aviation authorities, but the key point is this: any changes must result in better safety, higher efficiency, and that's what we're focused on."

Dr Balakrishnan yesterday also met Vice-President-Elect Ma'ruf Amin, and Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.


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