Interview: Chan Chun Sing

What can be done to foster greater intra-ASEAN trade and boost development?

CHAN CHUN CHAN: South-east Asia holds tremendous business potential and opportunities. It remains one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with economic growth continuing to average more than 5% annually.

However, the region still has a way to go before truly becoming a single market and production base, as envisaged under the 2015 ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint. Given the highly uncertain global environment, it is imperative for the region to deepen and strengthen integration efforts. Collectively, ASEAN governments need to establish clear goals and take definitive, sustained action to eliminate barriers to intra-regional trade, which will enhance business confidence in the region and reduce costs of doing business.

With steady growth in bilateral trade between Singapore and Indonesia, which sectors are being targeted for further investment and cooperation?

CHAN: Singapore has been Indonesia’s largest source of foreign direct investment since 2014. Singapore’s investments in Indonesia span a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, energy and logistics, and are spread throughout the archipelago, including in Sumatra, Sulawesi, and the Batam, Bintan and Karimun region. Singapore and Indonesia share strong economic ties, underpinned by the Singapore-Indonesia Six Bilateral Economic Working Groups. Among other things, this platform looks at ways to deepen investment relations. Our two flagship projects in Indonesia – Kendal Industrial Park and Nongsa Digital Park – have been progressing well. Both parks have attracted companies, investments, technology and talent.

Singapore is keen to invest in high-quality, sustainable projects that reap long-term mutual benefits. Singapore and Indonesia are jointly exploring more cruise infrastructure and destination developments. As Indonesia becomes increasingly urbanised, there are emerging needs for solutions to power generation, waste management, transport, real estate and more.

We hope to continue deepening start-up exchanges through BLOCK71 in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta. Indonesia’s Industry 4.0 efforts present opportunities for more partnerships between Indonesian manufacturers and Singapore Industry 4.0 solution providers.

How can Singapore support and encourage sustainable economic development in Indonesia?

CHAN: We have worked well with President Joko Widodo during his first term, and look forward to deepening our partnership and forging win-win outcomes. One such area is in human resource development. Singapore and Indonesia are collaborating on vocational training and education for Indonesians. The Furniture Industry and Wood Processing Polytechnic in Kendal Industrial Park started training its first batch of 99 students in October 2019. We have also worked with other Indonesian polytechnics to implement Train the Trainer programmes, helping prepare a growing base of skilled workers in Indonesia that will catalyse growth, encourage future investments and create jobs.

Furthermore, Singapore companies are making sizeable investments in infrastructure developments across Indonesia, in fields such as tourism, urban solutions and energy. Our collaboration in this area was boosted by the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Infrastructure Asia and Sarana Multi Infrastuktur in October 2019. The MoU supports the development of public-private partnerships in Indonesia and the exchange of best practices to support the sustainable structuring of projects across multiple sectors.

As Indonesia seeks to strengthen its economic competitiveness in order to encourage equitable growth across its regions, Singapore is eager to work closely with regional governments in Indonesia to explore new investment opportunities and partnerships in sectors such as urban solutions, lifestyle, tourism and more.