Airlangga seeks to bring Batam, Singapore closer

This would be an effort to revive old plans for an Indonesia-Singapore-Malaysia growth triangle known as “Sijori”.


A ferry service boat arriving from Batam Island heads towards the Harbour Front in Singapore on July 15, 2022. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)

September 1, 2022

JAKARTA – Indonesia is preparing to build more infrastructure to connect the island of Batam in the Riau Islands province with neighboring Singapore in what a senior minister has described as an effort to revive old plans for an Indonesia-Singapore-Malaysia growth triangle known as “Sijori”.

The government is aiming to connect Batam to both Singapore and the neighboring Malaysian city of Johor in a move that Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto has said could accelerate development in the surrounding areas.

Speaking after his meeting with Singaporean Minister of Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday, Airlangga said Indonesia would provide the legal framework and physical infrastructure to allow for the free movement of people, goods, services and data between Batam and Singapore.

Airlangga, who oversees the work of the Batam authority, added that efforts to build physical infrastructure connecting Batam and other major islands of the Riau Islands province would be increased.

“Currently the tendering stage is underway for the construction of a bridge that would connect Batam and the neighboring Bintan island,” Airlangga said at a press briefing.

To allow for the free flow of data between Singapore and Batam, where a number of data centers are now located, the government is working on a regulation to facilitate such data transfers, Airlangga noted.

The Batam authority will also begin work to set up a solar power plant for data centers in the island’s Nongsa Digital Park.

“Electricity from this solar power plant will first be used to power Batam itself, but if there’s an excess supply, we can certainly export this to other countries in the region,” Airlangga said.

The senior minister said he expected to see more ferry trips connecting Batam and Singapore in the coming months.

“Now we have trips to Singapore and Johor, and this is something that tourists can use with greater frequency,” he said.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 49 ferry trips were made between the Batam Center Ferry Port and Singapore’s Harbor Front each day under typical circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Singaporean Ministry for Trade and Industry said that to improve connectivity between Indonesia and Singapore, business visa requirements would be waived for ASEAN citizens on short working visits to the Indonesian islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

The agreement was reached following the meeting between Airlangga and Gan.

The Singaporean ministry, as quoted by The Straits Times, said the two ministers had discussed economic initiatives in six areas: Batam, Bintan, Karimun and other special economic zones; investment; manpower; transportation; agri-business; and tourism.

“At the meeting, both ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral economic ties to capture growth opportunities amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and resumption of economic activities on both sides,” the ministry added.

“The ministers noted key outcomes, including the completion of the Singapore-BBK Logistics Ecosystem Joint Study by the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Indonesian [Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister], that will help improve logistics connectivity between Singapore and the [Batam, Bintan, Karimun] region.”

Separately, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Suryopratomo said that now was a good time for Indonesia to build infrastructure for improved connectivity between the two countries in anticipation of what he called a “spillover” effect.

“One of example of this is now Singapore has imposed a moratorium on the establishment of data centers there, so we can expect new data centers to move to Batam,” he said.

Suryopratomo said Singapore expected legal and political certainty on the Indonesian side.

“Singaporeans just want to do business where there’s this certainty,” he told journalists on Monday.

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