Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla arrived in Singapore on Wednesday for a trip seen as key to Jakarta’s drive to attract foreign investment.
Before Mr Jusuf met Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in the afternoon, vice-presidential aide Sofyan Wanandi explained how Singapore companies are often used as a gauge by other prospective investors in Indonesia.
Said Mr Sofyan, the head of Indonesia’s Economic Recovery Council: ‘Singapore is very important for us. If Singapore firms move into Indonesia, others will follow suit.’
On the first day of his two-day visit, Mr Jusuf exchanged views with SM Goh on Indonesia’s economic development in a meeting that lasted more than half an hour.
They agreed that it was important to build personal relations between leaders and ministers on both sides and suggested that there be informal exchanges between the ministers.
They also agreed to enhance student exchanges and educational collaboration.
SM Goh hosted the Vice-President and his 19-member delegation at a dinner yesterday evening.
Mr Jusuf is on his first official trip abroad as vice-president. His group includes legislators, businessmen and five Cabinet ministers.
At the top of his agenda is attracting fresh investments in ‘green fields’ – new areas that have not been tapped – in the manufacturing and tourism sectors.
Today, he will seek to convince potential investors of the opportunities that Indonesia has to offer at a business forum organised by International Enterprise Singapore.
He is also expected to follow up on policy initiatives agreed upon in earlier meetings between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. These include a bilateral investment agreement.
‘The political leadership has set out the broad direction of bilateral ties and identified areas of cooperation,’ Mr Sofyan said yesterday.
‘Pak Jusuf’s visit is aimed at implementing some of the plans.’
The Vice-President will meet Mr Lee and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew today.
During a visit to Jakarta in November last year, Mr Lee agreed with Dr Yudhoyono to move bilateral relations forward with trade and investment and in other economic areas.
Ties have improved significantly since Dr Yudhoyono and his new administration were sworn in last October.
When the tsunami disaster struck in December, Singapore was one of the first countries to offer humanitarian aid.
The two countries are also building on the momentum of regular exchanges between leaders. There have been a slew of visits over the past few months.
Mr Jusuf’s current visit was at the invitation of SM Goh, who extended it during his trip to Jakarta last month.