Remarks by Minister (Foreign Affairs) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at Joint Press Conference with Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi on 25 March 2021, 1800hrs, Gedung Pancasila, Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

28 March 2021

Terima Kasih Ibu Retno. It is a pleasure to be back in Jakarta, back in the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (KEMLU), and to see you again. Although, of course, we have been in constant touch over the past few months. In fact, over the past one year. The last one year with COVID-19 has been a very challenging period, for both Singapore and Indonesia. The first point I want to make is that  we have shown to everyone that we have been good, steady and reliable partners throughout both good times and tough times. We have looked out for each other. You will recall that, even through the depths of the crisis, our supply chains continued to remain open. We were also able to help each other with respect to the tests for COVID, PPE (personal protective equipment), reagents and the rest of it. The point is that we have gone through a crisis together. We have successfully collaborated. We have saved lives, and we have helped to cushion the economic impact on our people together. That is the first point - that our relations with Indonesia are very, very good, and have withstood a stress test.


The next point I want to make is that if you look again at last year, despite all the challenges that we faced, actually KEMLU and MFA had a very busy time. Just think through the agreements, as you mentioned just now, the Bilateral Investment Treaty – you and my colleague Minister Chan [Chun Sing]  ratified it just a few days ago in fact. We have the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement awaiting ratification. Our central banks have also renewed the Bilateral Financial Arrangement, a US$10 billion dollar arrangement to mutually stabilise our currencies during a time of crisis. The point is that, even while dealing with an emergency, we have been able to do substantive work. Now, in the current situation as the numbers of infections in both Indonesia and Singapore are both coming down, and as both of us are rolling out our national vaccination programmes, this is also the time to start planning, and to collaborate on the post-COVID recovery. We have been sharing ideas, not only between KEMLU and MFA, but also at a Whole-of-Government level amongst all the other different ministries. These ideas will be implemented in the months to come.


I think on the economic front, you have outlined, again, the good progress that has been made. Singapore remains the largest foreign investor in Indonesia. In fact, this is the sixth year in a row. Last year, despite all the challenges, the FDI into Indonesia from Singapore went up by almost 50%. It reflects a vote of confidence in Indonesia, in its prospects for economic growth, and in Indonesia's future. This happened even in a time of crisis. With all the other agreements that we outlined just now, I expect this number to continue to grow. If you also think about the other projects that we have – the Kendal Industrial Park is going on well. In fact, it is now reaching a point where we actually need to promote the development of a port to support Kendal’s industrial development. You mentioned BBK (Batam, Bintan and Karimun); Ibu Retno, you will recall the two of us were actually in Batam, in Nongsa, to launch the digital town. I am very proud to see that develop, and that we have a digital bridge from Singapore to Batam. As globalisation and as the digital revolution goes on, I see great, great prospects for that bridge to become a vibrant connector – an electronic and human connector – that will harvest opportunities for young people in both Singapore and Indonesia. That is on the economic front.


On the tourism front, you will know that I just had a meeting with Pak [Sandiaga] Uno. We are looking at, as the situation continues to improve – to use your words – a gradual and safe reopening of travel arrangements. Again, we are looking at areas of mutual interest. In our earlier discussion, we had looked particularly at Bintan, perhaps as a site where we could convene our Leaders’ Retreat. The Leaders’ Retreat will proceed this year. Watch out for the date. Our two leaders will meet in-person and they have got a full agenda ahead of them.


We also shared our views on regional issues. We are both very distressed by the situation in Myanmar. I can say that the positions that Indonesia and Singapore take are, I think, virtually identical. We are gravely concerned with the situation. We are distressed by the loss of human life, by the use of lethal arms on unarmed civilians. We both believe that national reconciliation needs to occur and can only occur if both sides actually sit down in good faith, negotiate, and find a solution that works for Myanmar for the long term. Both Indonesia and Singapore also believe that there should be no foreign interference, but ASEAN stands ready to help in any way that we can. Therefore, we also support our leaders getting together to generate a common position in which ASEAN can express its support for Myanmar. There is a lot of work that we need to do on that front to prepare for that ASEAN meeting.


We also discussed, as you outlined, ASEAN Centrality, unity and engagement with the other superpowers, as well as our Dialogue Partners, and of course how to operationalise the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, focusing particularly on economic integration, on investments and win-win projects across the entire ASEAN, and indeed, beyond. Again,you see this is another example where the two of us keep agreeing. I did not have anything to disagree with you on that front.


All in all, I just want to summarise again by saying that we are truly friends in need who have demonstrated reliability and trustworthiness. Indonesia and Singapore see the world, strategically, through very similar lenses. We have been able to work together very closely, economically, and at the people-to-people level. We have been able to sign agreements, despite all our busyness. The future prospects for investments, for growth, within Indonesia are very, very great. Singapore, not just as an investor, has confidence in Indonesia and its prospects for the future. Thank you again for this opportunity.


.    .    .    .    .


Travel Page