Opportunities for Singapore, Indonesia to work together in green, digital economy: Lawrence Wong
SINGAPORE: There can be more opportunities for cooperation between Singapore and Indonesia in new sectors of the economy, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (May 20) at the close of a four-day official visit to Indonesia.
“We are more used to investments and cooperation in more traditional sectors of the economy, like manufacturing and infrastructure, but we can go beyond that to new areas, including in the digital economy and the green economy and there are many opportunities there,” the minister said at a doorstop interview from the residence of Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia in Jakarta.
Elaborating, Mr Wong said that climate change is a challenge for all countries and both Singapore and Indonesia are determined to accelerate the green transition and get to net-zero emissions.
“Indonesia has many more opportunities to do so, because it has got the ability to embark on more renewable energy projects, and more scale to do so than Singapore. It also has the opportunity to do nature-based carbon mitigation projects,” he said.
“So there is certainly opportunity for us to work together on some of these projects, be it the financing of these projects, or even to collaborate on actual projects in Indonesia.”
There are similar opportunities in the digital economy, said Mr Wong who had met with start-ups in Indonesia on this trip, including eFishery, an Indonesian aquatech start-up.
“You would not think that there is anything to do with Singapore, but in fact, we also have research in food,” said Mr Wong.
For example, Singapore has research and development into how fish such as barramundi can become more resilient and fish farms can become more productive.
He said that while Singapore may not have the space or opportunity to scale-up fish farms in Singapore, companies here can tie up with Indonesian partners to use their technology and expand in Indonesia.
“Whether it's the digital economy or the green economy, I think the opportunities for collaboration are truly immense. And the businesses and companies are already looking at all of these different opportunities, which is why Singapore remains the number one investor in Indonesia, at present,” he said.
He added that while Singapore is more familiar with investments and cooperation with Indonesia in Batam, Bintan and Karimun, there is also scope to invest in other parts of Indonesia such as Central Java and Kendal, which he visited on Thursday.
Over this week, Mr Wong had met numerous senior officials in capital Jakarta and in Central Java.
He discussed opportunities to step up mutual cooperation with Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, talked about ways to advance economic cooperation with Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto and met Minister of Defence Prabowo Subianto as well as Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, among others.
Mr Wong also visited Kendal Industrial Park, a joint venture in Central Java by Singapore’s Sembcorp and Indonesia developer Jababeka.
MET "BROADER RANGE" OF INDONESIAN LEADERS
Mr Wong said that while this visit to Indonesia was arranged “some time back”, the timing was opportune.
“Of late, there had been some updates in my appointment, particularly with the developments around succession planning, and me being appointed as the 4G leader. But in a way, the timing could not have been better,” he said.
While his relationship with Indonesia Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has been very good, he has had a chance to meet more Indonesian leaders on this four-day trip, he said.
“I have known Sri Mulyani for a long time, even as second Minister for Finance, and I have interacted and worked with her for over many years, but I have had fewer chances to work with other Indonesian ministers,” said Mr Wong.
“So it was I think, a good opportunity for me coming this time around to meet a broader range of Indonesian leaders, to interact with them and get to know them better.”
He added that on the bilateral front, relations are “in good order”.
“In the last two years, we have continued to strengthen our cooperation, especially working together to tackle the pandemic. We have also in the recent years resolved certain long standing bilateral issues, namely the agreements we have on extradition, defence and Flight Information Region. We are now waiting for these agreements to be ratified,” he said.
Mr Wong also said that more can be done to encourage people-to-people exchanges now that borders are open and flights are resuming after two years of restrictions due to the pandemic.
Replying to a CNA reporter’s question on when Singapore and Indonesia can resume full connectivity, Mr Wong said that while both sides would like that, airlines “will need some time to catch up with demand”.
“I hope before too long, we will be able to get the capacity increased and we will be able to resume more direct flights and hopefully, that will also help to bring down air fares.”