Singapore team meets Ibra

SINGAPORE said yesterday that it was looking at how it could help Indonesia in its divestment plan as Jakarta sought to offload assets currently being managed by an agency in charge of the country’s broken banks.

Economic Development Board (EDB) chairman Philip Yeo, ending a two-day-visit here, said a Singapore team had already met Mr Glen Yusuf, chief of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (Ibra), for preliminary talks to see how the Republic can assist companies under the agency’s purview.

“Basically, we would like to help Indonesia in its divestment plan,” he told reporters after meeting President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday. “Singapore is a very small country but we have good contacts and good business partners. So we can be a catalyst.”

Economic czar Kwik Kian Gie earlier told a conference that while Jakarta preferred to sell Ibra’s assets to Indonesians, foreign buyers would be able to contribute technology and expertise to companies under the agency’s purview. “The assets may be worth more to foreigners,” he said.

The government’s new policy of supporting the early sale of assets marked a volte face from the previous Habibie administration, which was opposed to any sale of assets held by Ibra, which was set up to try to rebuild Indonesia’s financial sector after the devastating impact of the economic crisis.

Mr Kwik said Ibra now controls about Rp 235 trillion (S$52 billion) in bad debt and more than Rp 550 trillion in assets, making it the single biggest stakeholder in the economy.

“It’s better to put productive assets back to work rather than let them remain idle on a matter of principle,” he said. “We want to dispose of the assets as soon as possible at reduced prices.”

Mr Yeo, who met several ministers during his trip here, including Mr Kwik, said that discussions were still in the early stage.

He said: “It is still very preliminary. We have to sit down and listen to Ibra and what it wants us to look at.

“The fact that Ibra has invited us to take a look, we will definitely assist and support them.”

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