Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 A very good morning to all of you. To all our Indonesian guests, distinguished Governors, Vice-Governors, Mayors and Regents, welcome to Singapore. We are very honoured that you have taken time out of your busy schedules to join us for this week-long RISING Fellowship, organised by the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Service College (CSC) of Singapore, Temasek Foundation, and Indonesia’s National Institute of Public Administration (LAN).
2 Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) first announced the RISING Fellowship at the 2018 Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat. As some of you may know, the word “RISING” stands for the “Republic of Indonesia” (“R-I”), and “Singapore” (“S-I-N-G”). It symbolises our close and longstanding cooperation that underpins our bilateral relationship, as well as our aspirations for this relationship to always continue on an upward trajectory. Today’s RISING Fellowship marks yet another milestone in our bilateral relations – it is the first time that Indonesia’s regional leaders have been invited to Singapore as RISING Fellows to get to know their Singapore counterparts, exchange ideas, and find new ways to collaborate between your regions and Singapore. I am happy to note that the Fellows here today come from very different parts of Indonesia, including Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and many other places.
3 Singapore and Indonesia have excellent bilateral relations that are substantive and wide-ranging, with cooperation spanning areas such as security, economics, education, tourism and culture. Our leaders meet each other regularly and have a good working relationship. Prime Minister Lee was glad to host President Jokowi for our Bicentennial National Day Parade in August this year and for their fourth Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in Singapore in October. Less than two weeks later, it was Prime Minister Lee’s turn to visit Jakarta to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Jokowi. There are also regular interactions at other levels. I myself was in Jakarta in September to co-chair the ninth Singapore-Indonesia Six Bilateral Economic Working Groups (6WG) Ministerial Meeting. The 6WG is a key bilateral platform for Singapore-Indonesia economic cooperation which has enabled us to advance cooperation in areas such as investments, infrastructure, human capital development, and the digital economy, all of which are key areas of interest.
4 Singapore recognises that to realise the full potential of Singapore-Indonesia ties, we must go beyond Jakarta. Indonesia is a vast archipelagic nation that spans more than 17,000 islands across 34 diverse provinces, each with its own unique strengths and beauty.
5 I must say that the relationship between Indonesia and Singapore is not just at the Leaders’ level. The Leaders are only able to do what they do because of the many layers of interactions across the entire public service and security agencies. I spent two years in Indonesia as the Army Attaché in Jakarta from 2001 to 2003, but my links with Indonesia go back further than that. My first time to Indonesia was as a young officer, as a Captain. I stayed in Bandung for a month as part of a regular exchange programme. I grew up in the SAF, and every year, we would have bilateral exercises with the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI). So I went to Indonesia almost every year, when I was growing up in the SAF. This is the kind of strong relationship that we have, that has allowed both sides to have strong bilateral cooperation in many areas. Many of you may also know that between the SAF and the TNI, we enjoy a very close relationship. It is not just about the SAF and the TNI training together – our planes training together, our troops training together, our ships sailing together – but more importantly, in the history of the SAF and the TNI, there have been occasions where the SAF and TNI worked closely together in actual operations.
6 On the economic front, there are also many areas of cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia. Most recently, we are cooperating on the Kendal Industrial Park project and on Indonesia’s “ten Balis”. But many years ago, in the 1990s, we embarked on working together with Batam and Bintan to develop the Riau Islands. At its peak, the Batamindo Industrial Park in Batam – that one industrial park alone – accounted for more than 10% of Indonesia’s non-oil exports. That was the depth of our cooperation. So you can see that our ties are very multi-faceted, ranging from security, counter-terrorism, to people-to-people exchanges.
7 Since my time in Indonesia, I have been convinced that Indonesia’s regions have tremendous potential to offer to the region and to the world. I am glad that today, more and more Singaporeans have a growing interest in opportunities in Indonesia, not just for work, but also for work and leisure. I have also been encouraging my colleagues, as well as the Singapore public service leaders and business leaders, to visit different parts of Indonesia, especially places beyond the big cities like Jakarta and Surabaya. I myself have had the privilege to visit all of Indonesia’s provinces, less two, and I can say for sure that each province is unique, and has the potential to work with Singapore, directly and indirectly. Likewise, many of my Ministerial colleagues have also made regular visits to Indonesia, from Jakarta to Yogyakarta, Kendal, Batam, Makassar, Palembang, Medan and Bali just this year. All these visits demonstrate our commitment to strengthen ties not just with the central government but also with the regional authorities.
8 I am heartened that we have so many of Indonesia’s regional leaders here with us today. This year’s RISING Fellowship is organised around the theme of “Industry 4.0 Transformation and Investment Promotion.” Together with our partners in the Indonesian government, we chose this theme because we felt that not only can we cooperate, we can also share our experiences in these areas. Singapore has been Indonesia’s largest investor for many years. Despite this, we are never complacent. We are constantly looking for opportunities to help improve the rules to facilitate even more investments. Currently, we are working on bilateral agreements for investments, and for the avoidance of double taxation, so that investments from Singapore can continue to grow from strength to strength.
9 Having said that, there are also many challenges that Indonesia and Singapore share which will allow us to work closely together. Indonesia is urbanising rapidly. There will be emerging needs for urban solutions, such as power generation, water management, waste management, healthcare, transport and education. These are areas in which Singapore will also be interested to work with the regional governments and authorities, to see how we can customise solutions at the local level to enable the Indonesian economy to grow even faster. In Singapore, we have put together a multi-pronged strategy, with a key pillar focusing on the upgrading and upskilling of our workforce, which is also another area that Indonesia is interested in. Because in the age of disruption, many of the challenges that Indonesia faces will be the same types of challenges that we will face in Singapore. That is why, in Singapore, when we work with Indonesia to build industrial parks, we do not build industrial parks in isolation. We build industrial parks together with training institutions and training programmes, to enable the Indonesian workers to take up the jobs that are available in the industrial parks. And we will continue to look for opportunities for both of us to complement each other in our economic journeys.
10 To all our friends from Indonesia, this week will be an important and valuable opportunity for you to exchange views with your Singaporean counterparts, so that we can grow together. If we are to do projects together, the projects must be based on mutual benefit and mutual trust. Mutual benefit is easy to cultivate. Mutual trust is something that we must work very hard on, to grow yet another generation of Singaporean and Indonesian leaders who can understand each other well, in order to work together on the projects. It is no secret that the foundation of this was laid by previous President Soeharto and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. They started us on this journey whereby the leaders on both sides, at every level, learnt to work together, grew up together, and built up mutual trust, giving us many years of enduring cooperation. Notwithstanding the fact that Indonesia is now much more diverse than in the past, much more decentralised than in the past, we similarly hope that the spirit of our leaders growing together will continue for many years to come. When leaders understand each other, trust each other, and are able to discuss issues openly, both countries will be able to overcome challenges and seize opportunities together. So I welcome you once again to Singapore. We look forward to your participation, to you sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, and we hope that this will be the beginning of a new journey in which leaders of both sides will grow together, and in which our bilateral ties will grow from strength to strength.
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