Singapore-based companies may soon be able to look to Indonesia's youth for talent under a new partnership that is part of wide-ranging efforts to enhance ties between the two countries.
This was revealed by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday at a media briefing in Jakarta, alongside his Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi, on the first day of his two-day inaugural visit as Singapore's top envoy.
Both foreign ministers underlined the importance of the long-standing relationship between the two countries - built on strong historical and trade ties - and pledged to collaborate in new areas such as human resources.
Earlier, Dr Balakrishnan also met Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan and Minister of Communication and Information Technology Rudiantara.
Dr Balakrishnan was briefed by Mr Luhut on Jakarta's efforts to improve the investment climate in the Batam-Bintan-Karimun (BBK) Special Economic Zone as well as its security initiatives.
Other issues discussed between the two men include the Flight Information Region or FIR. Singapore has been controlling the airspace over some parts of Riau since 1946, after the International Civil Aviation Organisation allocated the airspace to Singapore on operational and technical merits.
Mr Luhut said after the meeting that while Indonesia intends to "take back" control of the airspace, the process will "take a long time".
"Certainly we cannot take over immediately, but there have been discussions," he added. "Singapore will manage with us for some time because the airspace is busy and high skills are required."
On issues of security and terrorism, Mr Luhut said that Singapore "appreciates that with the worldwide security alerts in December, Indonesia was able to ensure its security, boosting investors' confidence in the country".
Singapore is Indonesia's largest foreign investor and its second-largest trading partner, while Indonesia is the Republic's fourth-largest trading partner, said Dr Balakrishnan. "In terms of tourist numbers, we are the largest source of tourists for each other," he added. "So this is a strong and growing account... but we believe that there are many more opportunities to do even more with Indonesia."
Singapore has several ongoing projects in Indonesia including those in BBK and the Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang, Central Java, which is a joint venture between Singapore's SembCorp Development and Indonesia's Kawasan Industri Jababeka.
He said that Indonesia offers new opportunities for Singapore companies in the infrastructure development and services sectors, as well as the new digital economy.
Dr Balakrishnan also touched on opportunities for co-operation on manpower. Noting that Indonesian institutions of learning will produce many graduates with digital skills, he said "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".
Ms Retno, for her part, said Indonesia plans to co-operate with Singapore to raise the standards of its human capital, particularly in the caregiver sector. "Moving forward, Indonesia plans to improve the skill levels of its caregivers."
Both foreign ministers also exchanged views on developments in ASEAN, including the South China Sea disputes and the progress of the ASEAN Economic Community.
They agreed that it would be timely for the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat to be held soon.
Dr Balakrishnan, who also met Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama yesterday, will call on President Joko Widodo today before returning to Singapore.
This article was first published on Jan 13, 2016.
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