LKY Fellowship visitor urges S’porean links with smaller Indonesian firms

SINGAPOREAN companies could broaden their base in the Indonesian economy by establishing links not just with major conglomerates but also small and medium-sized enterprises, a leading Indonesian businessmen said.

Mr Fadel Muhammad, the vice-chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told The Sunday Times in aninterview that Singapore businessmen could help such Indonesian enterprises develop by sub-contracting projects to them.

Mr Fadel, who is also a member of Golkar’s Executive Council, is here on a four-day visit as a recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship which brings outstanding individuals to Singapore.

The 42-year-old entrepreneur, who is president-director of Gema/Bukaka Group, said he had discussed with government officials here the chance of greater tie-ups with Indonesia’s small and medium-sized enterprises.

He said it was encouraging to see Singapore companies making inroads into medium-sized industries in Indonesia recently. But they still constituted a small percentage.

“There is a view in Indonesia, that Singapore companies go only for certain industries,” he said, pointing to the Batam and Bintan projects.

“I hope that they will widen their business links with small and medium-scale industries, many of which are ready to do business.”

“Small and medium” is the Indonesian term for indigenous companies.

The Suharto government aims to increase participation of such enterprises in the economy either through financial-aid schemes or by establishing greater links with more established firms.

Jakarta believes such businesses would help generate employment, ensure equitable distribution of income, produce goods that are competitive and thereby contribute to increased exports.

During his stay here, Mr Fadel has called on Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Information and the Arts, and Health Minister George Yeo and discussed with the Republic’s leaders the possibility of Singapore helping the development of eastern Indonesia through greater trade and investment.

There were investment opportunities in infrastructure, forestry, mining, food processing and fisheries in those regions, he said.

To attract greater investment, he would discuss with Indonesian businessmen the possibility of establishing an investment information centre in Singapore.

There was scope for greater economic cooperation between the two countries, he said.

Brigadier-General (NS) Yeo had said during the Young PAP’s goodwill visit to Indonesia last month, that Singapore could become a significant player in Indonesia’s economic development.

The country was now investment hungry and its leaders had the political will to push for change, he had said.

Said Mr Fadel: “There is a bridge linking the two countries. The challenge now is to widen that bridge.”

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