Opening Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum

PM Lee Hsien Loong's opening remarks at the Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre on 7 September 2017.


Your Excellency Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia
Ibu Iriana Joko Widodo
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Today marks a joyous milestone in Singapore-Indonesia relations. We celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations, established on this exact date in 1967. In this 50 years, we have accomplished a lot together as close neighbours.

I am very happy to celebrate this occasion with President Jokowi, and to hold our annual Leaders’ Retreat on this historic date. We had a good meeting earlier today. We took stock of our sound bilateral ties, and we discussed how we could strengthen cooperation across many areas – economic cooperation, security cooperation, social, and cultural projects. We have just witnessed the joint military flypast – an expression of the partnership between our two armed forces.

Singapore and Indonesia have long enjoyed substantial economic ties. We have benefitted from each other’s success, and also weathered global economic challenges and financial crises together. We are among each other’s top trading partners. We receive the largest number of tourists from each other. Every year 1.5 million Singaporeans visit Indonesia, and close to 3 million Indonesians come to Singapore.

Singapore has been the top investor in Indonesia for several years now, and the investments have grown. Investments range from infrastructure projects and financial services to food and beverages. More than 2,000 Indonesian businesses operate in Singapore, including retail, finance, and business services.

I am very happy that President Jokowi is actively promoting investment from Singapore to Indonesia. The Indonesian economy has been stable and growing steadily. Given the good relations between our two countries, there is every reason for Singapore companies to continue investing in Indonesia, and vice versa.

There is strong potential for further collaboration in many sectors. Our companies have expertise that complement Indonesia’s development priorities, for example infrastructure development in the transport and energy sectors. Indonesia is keen to grow its digital economy; likewise, Singapore wants to become a smart nation. We both have promising start-up companies. Investors, entrepreneurs and companies in this sector see many opportunities to collaborate and prosper together. For example, we have jointly established start-up networking platforms like EV Hive and Block 71 in Jakarta to cross-fertilise ideas.

One of the issues which we discussed during the retreat this morning, is to negotiate a new bilateral investment treaty. This will strengthen investors’ confidence that Indonesia is open and ready for business and foreign investment. I discussed this with the President and he agreed with me, that we would open discussions on a new BIT.

Our two governments and our two private sectors have cooperated closely to enhance ties. We have built a strong network of business-to-business links. Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has good connections with Indonesia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN). The two signed a Strategic Cooperation agreement two years ago. The newly-established Indonesia-Singapore Business Council (ISBC) which held its first meeting today, provides another platform to pursue concrete avenues of cooperation. I have often suggested to President Jokowi that when he comes to Singapore, he should bring a business delegation with him and to meet our business people. So that he can hear first-hand businessmen’s perspectives and interests. Our business people can also meet him, learn what his priorities are, and understand his thinking and how Indonesia can continue to progress. I am very happy that this is exactly what he has done and this is what this investment forum is about.

The focus of this forum is on tourism. Last year, Singaporeans accounted for 12% of Indonesia’s 12 million international tourists. It is not surprising because Indonesia has endless appeal, with its vibrant cities, rich cultural heritage and natural beauty across 17,000 islands. There is great potential for this to grow further, especially given the right infrastructure and better connectivity.

One specific area of tourism which we can invest in and work on is cruise tourism. In Asia, cruise tourism has been growing very rapidly. Larger ships are coming into service. These ships will need new infrastructure, especially larger ports, berths and marinas. This is why Singapore built the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, where we are now, even though we already had one cruise centre at HarbourFront. With this infrastructure in Singapore and the right infrastructure in place across the region, new cruise routes, destinations and itineraries can be opened up, and we can all share in the industry’s growth. The Bilateral Cruise Inter-Agency Task Force is working hard at this. I encourage our companies to continue to grow cruise tourism, and work with the Indonesian authorities, port operators and cruise lines to attract more infrastructure investment.

Since Singapore and Indonesia established diplomatic relations 50 years ago, the global economy has undergone dramatic changes. Now it is in a period of rapid technological change and disruption. It is opening up many new business opportunities, even as it generates uncertainty and fierce competition for all our companies. I hope our two countries will continue in this environment to deepen our economic links and our businesses will form more partnerships which can pursue win-win ventures. This is the way we can build resilience and prosper together. Thank you very much.