Interview: Lim Hng Kiang
What measures can be taken to boost trade and investment between Singapore and Indonesia?
LIM HNG KIANG: Singapore’s bilateral trade and investment ties with Indonesia are long-standing and strong. In 2015 Indonesia was Singapore’s fourth-largest trading partner and Singapore was Indonesia’s third-largest; bilateral trade reached S$58.7bn ($42.4bn). Singapore was also Indonesia’s top foreign investor. Singapore and Indonesia, nonetheless, recognise the potential to further deepen trade and investment relations, and we collaborate bilaterally and via international platforms to do so.
We regularly convene our Six Bilateral Economic Working Groups at ministerial and official meetings to identify areas for cooperation and find ways to facilitate investments and enhance tourism. At international platforms like the World Trade Organisation, APEC, ASEAN and the G20, we support each other’s efforts towards greater trade and investment liberalisation for deeper inclusion in the global economy. Such engagement and efforts are to enable businesses to form partnerships more easily and operate as smoothly as possible in each other’s markets. Key to achieving this is for governments to implement business-friendly domestic measures, either unilaterally or with the help of initiatives at the bilateral and international fora. Indonesia’s economic deregulation packages are concrete moves to foster a conducive climate for business. Effective implementation and constant improvements to domestic regulations are crucial to increase trade, attract investments, boost competitiveness and drive economic growth. This is in line with the Indonesian administration’s priorities and with Singapore’s business interests.
How has Singapore taken advantage of the largest consumer base in South-east Asia?
LIM: Singaporean companies have keen interests in the Indonesian market. Their interests range from investing in Indonesia’s infrastructure, manufacturing, food and beverage, and consumer services sectors, to supporting Indonesia’s rising digital economy by providing logistics and payments solutions.
We actively encourage and support our companies venturing into Indonesia. Our economic agencies have offices in Indonesia to share market knowledge with our businesses and to facilitate business linkups. These include the Economic Development Board, International Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board. We keep on the look-out for commercial projects while Singapore and Indonesian companies can collaborate and find ways to showcase Singaporean products, an example of which is the Tasty Singapore Food Aisle in Jakarta supermarkets.
In parallel with Indonesia providing a crucial consumer base for Singapore (with the world’s fourth-largest population at more than 250m people and a fast-growing middle class), our investments into Indonesia also generate employment and our bilateral trade keeps our economies energised. For Singapore, a small country with few natural resources, constantly finding synergies, complementarities and opportunities with our trading partners is vital. We will continue our economic engagement with Indonesia, at both the government and business levels, to ensure a healthy economic partnership bilaterally and for the region as a whole .
To what extent are Singaporean firms participating in Indonesia’s infrastructure development?
LIM: Singaporean companies actively participate in Indonesia’s infrastructure development in areas where they have experience and can make meaningful contributions. Two key areas where there are synergies are in the energy and water sectors. Indonesia has a 35,000-MW power generation goal, intentions to increase focus on renewable energy and plans to supply clean water to its entire population by 2019.
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