Indonesia: Singapore seeks new investment, joint haze efforts

Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post 14 Jan 16;

Indonesia and Singapore have agreed to improve bilateral ties following a courtesy call meeting between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday at the State Palace.

Balakrishnan, a former environment and water resources minister, was in Jakarta for a two-day introductory visit for his new post.

“The President said that we have close ties and that improving relations and cooperation is imperative; mutually beneficial cooperation, naturally,” Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir, who accompanied Jokowi during the meeting, told reporters on Wednesday.

Singapore has long been one of Indonesia’s top trading partners and sources of investment. Data from the Foreign Ministry show that bilateral trade reached US$41.99 billion in 2014, the second-highest amount after China. Singapore has consistently been among the top five investors in Indonesia in the past five years, with $5.8 billion in investment in 2,056 projects in 2014.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Fachir said Balakrishnan had expressed appreciation for Indonesia’s efforts to improve the business climate through deregulation.

“Other than recognizing Indonesia’s potential, he also said he had great confidence in further investment in Indonesia,” Fachir added.

According to Fachir, Singapore also appreciates Indonesia’s efforts in tackling the annual haze that has often blanketed neighboring countries, including also Singapore.

“[Balakrishnan] believes that the situation will be better in the future [for both countries] and expressed willingness to cooperate with Indonesia [in tackling haze],” Fachir said.

Jokowi visited Singapore in mid-2015 and held a meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at which the two reiterated their commitment to strengthening bilateral ties, particularly in the economic sector. Jokowi also told a business forum of top Singaporean government and corporate officials not to miss the chance to invest more in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

During his visit to Jakarta, Balakrishnan has also met with a number of ministers, including, on Tuesday, his counterpart Retno LP Marsudi.

The two discussed ways to improve Indonesia’s agribusiness exports to Singapore, as reported by Antara news agency.

Retno was quoted by Antara as saying that Singapore needed agriculture products and Indonesia could meet those needs.

Balakrishnan also met with Communication and Information Minister Rudiantara on Tuesday to discuss possible cooperation in the ICT sector and digital economy amid a growing Indonesian digital economy.

Balakrishnan also met with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan on Tuesday morning; Luhut explained Indonesia’s efforts to improve the investment climate in the Batam-Bintan-Karimun Special Economic Zone (BBK). The two also briefly discussed issues related to the flight information region (FIR), amid Jakarta’s efforts to take over the management of airspace over Riau and Riau Islands provinces from Singapore in the next three years.

According to the Singaporean Foreign Ministry’s official website, Singapore sees the FIR as an issue not of sovereignty, but of commercial air traffic safety and efficiency.

Singapore has been managing the FIR over the area since 1946 and Indonesia’s efforts since 1993 to take over the airspace have so far been fruitless. The city-state controls airspace up to 110 nautical miles from its position, covering Batam, Dumai and Natuna — an arrangement that deprives Indonesia of authority over the airspace. As a consequence of the arrangement, patrols conducted by the Indonesian Air Force and Navy in the territory must also seek guidance from Singapore.


Singapore, Indonesia express interest in manpower development cooperation
In terms of economic partnership, the Republic's Foreign Minister believes Singapore companies will be looking for more opportunities to invest in Indonesia amid the country's ongoing economic reforms.

By Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 12 Jan 16;

JAKARTA: Singapore and Indonesia have expressed interest to enhance cooperation in areas such as manpower development, and this includes a scheme to help companies from Singapore recruit talent in Indonesia.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Foreign Minister, said this during a meeting in Jakarta with his counterpart Ms Retno Marsudi.

"We believe Indonesian universities and technical institutes will produce many graduates with digital skills and we are thinking of launching a scheme, in which Singapore companies - which are looking for talent - will be able to recruit talent here, deploy them here, and provide services for the rest of the world," he said.

The meeting was held on the first day of Dr Balakrishnan's visit to Jakarta. Earlier on Tuesday (Jan 12), he had also met with Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. The visits are part of his introductory visits to countries in the region, after taking office as Singapore's new Foreign Minister.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore and Indonesia have a long, deep and multifaceted relationship. In terms of economic partnership, he believes Singapore companies will be looking for more opportunities to invest in Indonesia amid the country's ongoing economic reforms that will provide better regulatory certainty.

REJUVENATE COLLABORATION

In addition, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore looks forward to opportunities to rejuvenate the collaborative projects the two countries have in Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

Ms Retno also indicated that the two countries could cooperate in manpower for caregivers.

"There is a possibility of cooperation in manpower for caregivers,” said Ms Retno. “I expressed the Indonesian government's appreciation to Singapore for the good treatment given to Indonesian workers in Singapore. Moving forward, Indonesia will also increase its skilled workers, among them related to caregiver therapists."

Indonesia is also keen to increase its export in agri-business to Singapore. Ms Retno said Singapore needs agriculture products and Indonesia has the export capacity.

Both foreign ministers also discussed the possibility of Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visiting Indonesia this year, which is expected to be one of the highlights marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Indonesia.

In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry (MFA) said Dr Balakrishnan also met with Governor of the Special Capital Region of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

The two discussed ways in which Singapore could cooperate more closely with the Jakarta government "in areas of mutual benefit", said MFA, adding that Mr Basuki hosted Dr Balakrishnan on a tour of the Jakarta City Hall, as well as briefed him on the operations of the Jakarta Smart City Lounge.

On Wednesday, Dr Balakrishnan is scheduled to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

- CNA/ek


Vivian affirms close Jakarta ties on visit
Today Online 13 Jan 16;

JAKARTA — Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Indonesian Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan reaffirmed the “long-standing and strong bilateral relationship” between the two countries during a meeting in Jakarta yesterday.

Dr Balakrishnan, who took over the foreign affairs portfolio following the General Election in September, is in Indonesia for an introductory visit.

Mr Luhut briefed Dr Balakrishnan on the Indonesian government’s efforts to improve the investment climate in the Batam-Bintan-Karimun Special Economic Zone (BBK), and both ministers discussed “the importance of ensuring regulatory certainty for investors and improving labour relations in BBK”, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said yesterday. Both countries had agreed in 2006 to set up special economic zones in BBK.

The MFA said that during the meeting, Mr Luhut briefly touched on the issue of Indonesian airspace controlled by Singaporean air traffic controllers — also known as Flight Information Region (FIR). Last year, Jakarta indicated that it had wanted to reclaim control of its airspace above the Riau Islands from Singapore.

“Singapore’s position is that the FIR issue is not an issue of sovereignty. The safety and efficiency of commercial air traffic is the paramount concern,” said the MFA in its statement, adding that the FIR is “a complex technical and operational issue under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and involves many other countries and airlines”.

“The current arrangements have worked well for many decades for the benefit of the international aviation community by ensuring the safe and efficient provision of air-traffic services in the region,” the statement added.

Dr Balakrishnan also met several other Indonesian ministers and politicians, such as Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi and Minister of Communication and Information Technology Rudiantara, and was taken on a tour of Jakarta City Hall by the city’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

“We had good, frank, constructive discussions on bilateral ties, including regional and international issues,” Dr Balakrishnan said of the meetings on Facebook. “Governor Basuki kindly brought me on a tour of the Jakarta City Hall and briefed me on the operations of the Jakarta Smart City Lounge. What was truly impressive was not just the technology, but the passion and energy of the many young people trying out new ideas with open data in government.”

Both ministers also noted the strong economic ties between Singapore and Indonesia, and agreed that “there was scope to explore other possible areas of cooperation, such as tourism and infrastructure development”, added the MFA.

Dr Balakrishnan will conclude his visit today.

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