New Singapore consulate in Riau to boost economic links

The Republic also plans to import vegetables, prawns and other food from the province, giving a push to already flourishing ties between them

The setting up of a Singapore consulate here to oversee the growing number of projects in the area is a move to further strengthen economic links between Singapore and the Riau province.

Visiting Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo, who made the announcement at a press conference yesterday, said the consulate would “facilitate the movement of officials and businessmen between Riau and Singapore”.

Over the past 10 years, both sides have worked to develop especially the islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun, just south of Singapore.

Batamindo Industrial Park, Bintan Beach International Resort, Bintan Industrial Estate and Karimun Marine and Industrial Complex are all examples of the cooperation and level of economic activity already underway between Singapore and the Riau province.

These projects have attracted over US$4 billion (S$7 billion) in foreign investments, created employment for about 100,000 Indonesians and generated export earnings of US$2.5 billion last year alone.

Coupled with these are two new multi-billion dollar gas deals Singapore signed recently with Indonesia.

On Monday, Brigadier-General (NS) Yeo witnessed the signing of a 20-year agreement with Indonesia to buy natural gas from the Asamera gas fields in South Sumatra.

It is the second multi-billion-dollar gas deal just weeks after the first delivery of gas from West Natuna.

“There is so much activity going on in the Riau islands and Sumatra generally. There is so much at stake. The consulate could play a key role in ensuring the success of on-going projects and future ones we are taking on,” said an official with the 40-member business and government delegation accompanying BG Yeo on the four-day visit to Indonesia.

The challenge now, of course, would be to develop economic links with the Riau mainland after having focused on the islands for so long.

With Singapore looking to buy vegetables from the mainland, the primary task would be to promote private sector cooperation in agri-business, with a focus on food production.

The consulate would, for a start, have to keep track of the just-announced vegetable project in Pekanbaru, even if it is in private sectors hands.

The 1-ha “demonstration farm” could form the nucleus for other farms to be modeled on.

In addition, much work would also need to be done in getting the project off the ground.

For a start, private sector investors would have to build a vegetable processing and packing centre there.

It would provide services for Singapore importers and Indonesian exporters to trade in leafy vegetables.

Vegetables purchased would be inspected, processed and packed there.

The centre would also transport the packed vegetables to the Republic.

Vegetables are not the only interest for Singapore investors in the mainland.

Also in the works are plans to import prawns and other foodstuff from the province.

Indonesian officials said the Riau provincial government would also consider setting up an “information centre” in Singapore to provide investors with trade and economic statistics.

If it does, it would follow the footsteps of South Sumatra province.

South Sumatra Governor Rosihan Arsyad told The Straits Times earlier that his province will set up an office in Singapore this year.

“Singapore is the trading centre of Asia,” he said.

“Everything passes through the country. So we must have some presence there to build on ties.”

Task to oversee projects

THE consulate, which will include a trade office, will be the second Singapore has set up in Indonesia, after one in Medan. Singapore officials told The Straits Times that the new office, which is likely to be headed by a veteran diplomat, would be tasked with overseeing and coordinating the increasing number of projects the Republic has with Riau.

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