Jokowi invited to make pitch to firms in S'pore

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has invited newly inaugurated Indonesian President Joko Widodo to make a pitch to businesses in Singapore for investments in infrastructure and developing the maritime sphere when he or his ministers next visit.

Mr Lee was speaking to the Singapore media after paying a courtesy call on Mr Joko at the presidential palace yesterday afternoon. He described their first meeting as "good".

"We have many things going on - economic, trade, investments, we've got security cooperation, our armed forces work together with the TNI, and I told him that we work well and would like to do more together," Mr Lee said, referring to the Indonesian Armed Forces by its acronym.

He noted that the new President's priorities were domestic, saying he had focused on certain ideas and reforms such as over the fuel subsidy, for a start.

But Mr Joko also spoke about "reforms to the bureaucracy, getting investments in on infrastructure, getting the idea of a maritime nation going, and he believes that Singapore can help him to achieve this".

"So I said, 'Yes, certainly.' Next time he or his ministers are in Singapore, I encouraged him to meet our business people and make a pitch to them of his strategy and plans, and I'm sure they'll be very interested to hear what he has to say," Mr Lee added.

Mr Lee noted that while the two countries may occasionally face some knotty differences, on the whole, bilateral ties are very good and both sides have made much progress in the last decade.

And he hoped Mr Joko and his Cabinet would continue to cooperate with Singapore and take the relationship further.

Asked about the different styles of Mr Joko and his predecessor, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Lee said: "We are very happy to work with the elected president of Indonesia, and with president Yudhoyono we had a good 10 years.

"Our relationship developed in a very steady way and I think that this was a positive decade."

He noted that it would take some time for Mr Joko to settle his more urgent priorities, after which he hoped to discuss possibilities for specific ideas to expand cooperation. As for the haze, Mr Lee said he did not raise the subject, but said Singapore had made its position known to Indonesia.

"I have read what President Joko has said earlier, that he is quite determined to tackle this problem, but I think today is not the time to go into such specific issues," he said. "There'll be time enough later."

Mr Lee said Singapore hoped to work in a cooperative way with Jakarta - citing the standing offer to assist in firefighting efforts - and gradually bring the problem under control.

"I do not expect to be able to make a sudden breakthrough, but we are continuing to work at it."

Mr Lee cited Singapore's recent transboundary haze pollution law to make it easier to charge perpetrators with contributing to the haze when they enter Singapore.

"It's not been tested yet, but I think some of the companies which are potentially involved in this have taken note of what we are doing, and I hope it will influence the way they develop their plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan."

Mr Lee met Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who will host Singapore at the G-20 summit in Brisbane next month, and United States Secretary of State John Kerry before flying home.

This article was first published on Oct 21, 2014.
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