BATAM - President Tony Tan Keng Yam met his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Batam yesterday evening at the Nongsa Point Marina and Resort.
At the meeting, they reaffirmed the longstanding friendship between the two countries and their hope that good relations would be maintained.
Accompanied by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew and officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry, Dr Tan met other Indonesian leaders, including Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. Dr Tan was also hosted to a dinner by Dr Yudhoyono.
The visit came at Dr Yudhoyono's invitation, made in April last year, when the two leaders met in Singapore at the annual Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat.
Earlier in the day, Dr Tan and Mr Lui met with 15 Singapore businessmen at the Turi Beach Resort, who shared their experiences of working on the Indonesian island.
Among them was Mr Paul Lim, vice-president of sports apparel maker Bodynits, which counts Nike and Under Armour among its clients. Two years ago, the Singapore firm opened a 10ha plant in Batam that was three times the size of its previous rental premises.
"Batam has many resources needed for our (manpower-intensive) industry that we cannot find in Singapore," said Mr Lim, 53, who has worked here for four years. "It is also a very strategic location for us - management can be here within an hour from Singapore, and communication is easy."
He hopes the Singapore Government can give more support to companies doing business in Batam when they face legal complexities or labour problems.
"Before we push out any HR policies, we have to engage with the unions so that everybody understands what is going on," he said. "We had to learn that ourselves."
Mr Chandra Mohan, deputy general manager of Marcopolo Shipyard, agreed business conditions could be improved further. The yard, which builds and repairs tugboats that support oil rig operations, sits on a 35ha plot of land - a luxury not available in Singapore.
More than 95 per cent of the yard's 1,500-strong workforce is Indonesian, but some projects require specialised commissioning engineers, and Mr Mohan says he sometimes faces delays when bringing them in from abroad. He hopes for greater cooperation between the governments to facilitate such manpower transfers.
This article was first published on June 6, 2014.
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