S'pore, Jakarta to further boost ties

S'pore, Jakarta to further boost ties
Indonesian President Joko Widodo saluting as he inspected an honour guard with President Tony Tan Keng Yam during a welcome ceremony at the Istana yesterday. Mr Joko urged investors to look to Indonesia, where he says "a new economic cycle is beginning".

Singapore and Indonesia yesterday agreed to further bolster their strong economic and security ties and step up co-operation on e-government, youth and sports development as well as tourism.

Both countries will also work closely to better tackle the threat of extremist terrorism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at a joint press conference after the signing of three agreements.

"We both worry about ISIS. We both have nationals from our countries involved in terrorist activities, including in the Middle East," Mr Lee said.

Mr Joko added that the two nations will share information on terrorism and militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

More than 500 Indonesians are estimated to have joined ISIS. Yesterday, Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry said it had detained a 51-year-old Singaporean for trying to join the group.

Mr Joko is on a two-day state visit to Singapore, accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo and several key ministers.

He will be back in Singapore next month, to attend the National Day Parade on Aug 9.

Yesterday morning, his visit began with a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, after which he called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Later, he met Mr Lee and they witnessed the signing of three memoranda of understanding for greater co-operation in youth and sports development, and collaboration in business and e-government.

Mr Lee said at the press conference after the event that they had a good meeting on how they can build on already-solid ties.

Bilateral trade with Indonesia has been on an upward trend over the past 10 years, reaching $72.4 billion last year. And Singapore has consistently been among its top five investors, investing US$5.8 billion (S$7.9 billion) last year.

Both leaders also agreed to work together to draw more Singapore investors, especially to the special economic zone of Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

Mr Joko said Indonesia is looking seriously at setting up a special unit to settle problems in the zone, which has been hit by such woes as rising costs and labour disputes.

He and Mr Lee also discussed promoting both countries as a joint destination to attract more tourists.

They said they hoped to visit the planned Kendal Industrial Park in Semarang, a joint venture between SembCorp and Indonesian property developer Jababeka. Mr Lee said it is " a sign of our friendship, our co-operation and the potential for us to work more closely together for mutual benefit".

He also said the strong co-operation between both armed forces had to extend beyond "the top level, down to the ranks" to deepen mutual understanding.

Mr Joko said his visit to his country's closest neighbour and key partner provided a "new momentum" to build trust and mutually beneficial relations.

Indonesia also conveyed its appreciation to the Singapore Government for protecting the rights of Indonesian citizens and workers in Singapore, Mr Joko's communications team added.

Later, in an address to investors, Mr Joko urged them to look to Indonesia where "a new economic cycle is beginning". Investors who stayed during the 1997 financial crisis have made huge profits today, he said.

His day ended with a state banquet at the Istana that was hosted by President Tan, who hailed the longstanding ties between the two countries and their people.

"We should continue to nurture the many exchanges and interactions between our peoples at all ages and across many fields," Dr Tan said. "This will form the bedrock for developing and enhancing our mutual trust and understanding."

This article was first published on July 29, 2015.
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