Jakarta suggests more ways Singapore can help

INDONESIA yesterday said Singapore’s offer of humanitarian assistance was instrumental in forging closer ties, but suggested the Republic go further to help his country revive local industries and export agricultural products.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed,” Minister for Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Haryono Suyono said.

“But the glue that binds both countries will become even stronger if Singapore can look at other ways to help us.”

He made the comments to The Straits Times after a simple ceremony to mark the handing over of medicine and 1,000 tonnes of rice in the fourth phase of a US$12-million (S$21 million) humanitarian assistance package from Singapore.

At yesterday’s ceremony, Singapore Ambassador to Indonesia Edward Lee presented Prof Haryono with a symbolic packet of rice and a box of medicine. He said Singaporeans recognised and understood the difficulties Indonesians faced:

“Singapore has tried consistently to assist within our limited means since the economic crisis started … Indonesia’s stability and growth is important to Singapore and the region.”

Of the latest batch of aid, 500 tonnes will be distributed to about 250 villages in Jakarta. The rest will go to West Kalimantan and other needy provinces. Medicine will be channelled through the Health Ministry.

Prof Haryono said “millions of poor Indonesians are very grateful for what Singapore is doing” through its humanitarian help scheme.

But he said the Republic should look at other ways to help and made two suggestions.

Singapore could provide local firms with raw materials for pharmaceutical products and essential drugs. This would help revive the pharmaceutical industry, lower drug prices and provide jobs to millions.

Another way was to help Indonesia export its agricultural products.

“Singapore has a wide international network and the market expertise to work with us on this one,” he said. “It will stimulate economic recovery.”

Ambassador Lee told reporters after the ceremony that the latest aid was the final phase of humanitarian assistance, but added that “we will certainly be reviewing the situation”.

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