Dr Vivian Balakrishnan visit in March showed the pandemic did not dampen dynamic growth in diplomatic ties as well as Singapore’s investments in Indonesia which went up by 50 percent during the last year.
THERE was no doubt that the last one year has been a challenging one for both countries no thanks to COVID-19 but in his remarks to the press during the Joint Press Conference held with Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Retno Marsudi on 25th March 2021, Singapore’s visiting Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan went out of his way to stress, “The first point I want to make is that we have shown everyone that we have been good, steady and reliable partners throughout both good times and tough times. We have looked out for each other, You will recall that event through the depths of the crisis, our supply chains continued to remain open.” The press conference which came at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Indonesia was held at Gedung Pancasila at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (KEMLU) and he went on to say that “We were also able to help each other with respect to the tests for COVID, PPE (personal protective equipment), reagents and the rest of it. The point is that we have gone through a crisis together. We have successfully collaborated. We have saved lives, and we have helped to cushion the economic impact on our people together. That is the first point – that our relations with Indonesia are very, very good, and have withstood a stress test.” This underscored the strong bilateral tests which was confirmed by the level of engagement between both countries in the last year. Dr Vivian revealed that despite all the challenges both KEMLU and MFA had “a very busy time.” The visit by the Singapore Foreign Minister capped several initiaves that have been going on for some time. In the last few days several agreements were signed that included:
- Bilateral Investment Treaty signed by Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chu Sing.
- Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement that awaits ratification.
- The Bilateral Financial Arrangement was renewed by both countries’ Central banks. Thisis a US$10 billion arrangement to mutually stabilise the Singapore Dollar and Indonesian rupiah during times of crisis.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in her remarks outlined how good progress has been made in the economic front. Singapore remains Indonesia largest foreign investor. Despite COVI-19, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Singapore into Indonesia rose by almost 50%. This reflects in concrete terms a vote of confidence by Singapore in Indonesia, its prospects for economic growth and its future.
Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also added that “With all the other agreements that we outlined just now, I expect this number to continue to grow. If you also think about the other projects that we have – the Kendal Industrial Park is going on well. In fact, it is now reaching a point where we actually need to promote the development of a port to support Kendal’s industrial development.”
BBK Promising Potential
Foreign Minister also highlighted the potential for growth in Batam, Bintan and Karimun (islands) and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan recalled how they both were in Nongsa, in Batam, to launch the island’s digital hub. He said, “I am very proud to see that develop, and that we have a digital bridge from Singapore to Batam. As globalisation and as the digital revolution goes on, I see great, great prospects for that bridge to become a vibrant connector – an electronic and human connector – that will harvest opportunities for young people in both Singapore and Indonesia.”
Tourism, Bintan and Leaders’ Retreat
During his visit Dr Vivian Balakrishna had also called on Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and the Creative Economy, Mr Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno. They discussed how as the situation improves Minister Sandiaga looked forward to a gradual and safe reopening of travel arrangements. Acording to Minister Balakrishnan, “Again, we are looking at areas of mutual interest. In our earlier discussion, we had looked particularly at Bintan, perhaps as a site where we could convene our Leaders’ Retreat. The Leaders’ Retreat will proceed this year.Watch out for the date. Our two leaders will meet in-person and they have got a full agenda ahead of them.