S’pore, Indonesia to cooperate on energy, sustainability, health; ties in ‘excellent order’: PM Lee

Among the agreements is one that will establish the Singapore-Indonesia Tech-X Programme for young technology professionals from Singapore and Indonesia.

Tham Yuen-C

Tham Yuen-C

The Straits Times


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) welcoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo as he arrives at the Istana for the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat on March 16. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

March 17, 2023

SINGAPORE – Singapore and Indonesia are ready to cooperate in new areas, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday as both countries inked a slate of agreements in areas such as energy, sustainability, health and human capital development.

“Our bilateral relations are in excellent order,” he said at the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat, where he met Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

“We are ready to break new ground in fresh areas of cooperation that are deep, multifaceted, forward-looking, and mutually beneficial and will make a difference to future generations,” PM Lee added.

The two South-east Asian neighbours signed six agreements, covering emerging areas such as the digital economy, sustainability and human capital development, and traditional areas such as security, health and finance.

Among the agreements is one that will establish the Singapore-Indonesia Tech-X Programme for young technology professionals from Singapore and Indonesia to work in each other’s countries for up to a year.

The tie-up will benefit professionals under 30 who graduated from any of the six autonomous universities in Singapore, and those from 11 universities in Indonesia, such as the University of Indonesia and the Bandung Institute of Technology.

PM Lee said the cooperation between both countries in the technology space will also strengthen Asean collaboration in the sector, including on the Digital Economy Framework Agreement, to establish a seamless digital trade ecosystem under Indonesia’s Asean chairmanship.

Another agreement commits both countries to work on cross-border electricity trading projects, and facilitates investments in Indonesia to develop renewable energy manufacturing, such as the production of solar cells and battery energy storage systems.

This is a win-win outcome, said PM Lee.

Mr Widodo, referring to the agreements signed, said he welcomed the outcome of the retreat.

He noted the interest among Singapore investors in the development of Nusantara, Indonesia’s new capital city in East Kalimantan.

PM Lee said Singapore is happy to support Mr Widodo’s vision for a “green” and “smart” Nusantara and will contribute towards knowledge sharing, and joint research and development activities.

To this end, an agreement was signed on Thursday between Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities and the Nusantara National Capital Authority for knowledge sharing, capacity building, and research to support the planning and development of a smart and sustainable city.

At their meeting, PM Lee and Mr Widodo also discussed regional developments, including the crisis in Myanmar. The country was plunged into turmoil in 2021 after a military coup ousted the civilian government.

PM Lee said both Singapore and Indonesia regret the lack of progress on the peace plan, known as the Asean five-point consensus, to bring an end to the violence in Myanmar.

Mr Widodo said Indonesia, as Asean chair, would urge progress on the implementation of the plan, and conduct engagements with all parties to pave the way for inclusive dialogue.

He also said Indonesia would stress the importance of reducing violence and ensuring that humanitarian assistance goes to all parties who need it.

PM Lee said he had assured Mr Widodo of Singapore’s full support for Indonesia’s Asean chairmanship.

“Singapore will continue working with Indonesia and with Asean members, plus Asean’s partners like the United Nations, to push for the full implementation of the five-point consensus,” he said.

He added that Singapore will also work with Indonesia and other Asean members on the road map for Timor-Leste’s Asean membership, and help the country prepare for its obligations and commitments when it joins the regional grouping.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a delegation meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and key ministers during the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat at the Istana on March 16. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Widodo after their meetings, PM Lee said both countries had taken a major step forward after concluding three agreements in 2022 on longstanding bilateral issues of airspace management, defence cooperation and the extradition of fugitives.

PM Lee and Mr Widodo had witnessed the signing of the three agreements, under the expanded framework between the two countries, at the 2022 leaders’ retreat held in Bintan, Indonesia.

Both leaders, on Thursday, noted the progress made since then, with PM Lee thanking Mr Widodo and his ministers for their leadership, support and hard work in the ratification of the agreements.

“The successful outcome reflects our strong bilateral relations, and shows that Singapore and Indonesia can gain substantial mutual benefits through open and constructive engagement,” said PM Lee.

The leaders’ retreat, held at the Istana, is the sixth between the two leaders, and started with a special ceremonial welcome for Mr Widodo.

A group of seven trumpeters from the Singapore Armed Forces band played Fanfare For A Dignified Occasion by composer Arthur Bliss on the Indonesian President’s arrival at 11am.

Both leaders were accompanied by members of their Cabinet. Mr Widodo had with him a high-level delegation comprising ministers and ministerial-ranked officials, while PM Lee’s delegation of 10 ministers included Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.

In the morning, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen hosted Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto to breakfast, where they exchanged views on geopolitical developments and discussed ways that the two defence establishments can work together for regional peace and security, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The also signed a joint update on defence cooperation that highlights key bilateral defence interactions in the past year and affirms both countries’ commitment to advance cooperation on key areas of mutual interest.

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