PM in Jakarta to strengthen regional ties

Aim of visit to boost investor confidence after Bali blasts.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong arrives in Indonesia today, to strengthen bilateral ties and regional cooperation.

The two-day visit is aimed at restoring investor confidence in the region by supporting the Megawati administration and presenting a united front in the face of economic problems and the terrorist scourge.

To underscore the close ties with Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, Mr Goh will call on her at the presidential palace in Bogor.

The Istana Bogor, about 60 km from Jakarta, was the official residence of the Dutch-governor generals from 1870 to 1942. Following independence, the palace was a much-favoured retreat of Indonesia’s founding father and Ms Megawati’s father, Sukarno.

The 55-year-old President has fond memories of the palace, especially the nearby Kebun Raya, or Botanical Gardens, which she takes a personal interest in.

The 80 ha gardens contain streams and lotus ponds. There are more than 15,000 species of plants, including 400 types of palm.

Its orchid houses are reputed to contain more than 3,000 varieties of the flower.

After talks at the palace, the Prime Minister will stroll through Kebun Raya with the President and present her with an orchid named after her.

Mr Goh’s visit takes place against the backdrop of the Oct 12 Bali bombing, which has dampened investor confidence in South-east Asia and set alarm bells ringing in the tourist industry, particularly in Indonesia.

The Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday that he would give support to Ms Megawati’s government ‘in overcoming the grave security and economic problems in the aftermath of the attack’.

Mr Goh will discuss with her how both countries and other Asean members can work together to overcome the terrorist threat and attract foreign investment.

The aim is to boost regional cooperation and competitiveness.

The two governments will also look at ways to strengthen bilateral ties where the fundamentals are already strong.

Singapore is the third largest foreign investor in Indonesia, having pumped in US$21.1 billion (S$37.2 billion) so far.

The Riau industrial parks in Batam, Bintan and the Karimun islands have generated more than 90,000 jobs for Indonesians.

Both sides are also studying the possibility of extending the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement to cover Indonesian IT products as a way to draw further investment into the country.

Mr Goh is the first head of government to visit Jakarta after the Bali bomb blasts.

He will also meet Vice-President Hamzah Haz, People’s Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung, Cabinet ministers, media personalities and community leaders.

The Prime Minister will lead a delegation including Law and Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar; Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam; Minister of State for Education and Manpower Ng Eng Hen; and Mayor of Northeast Community Development Council Zainul Abidin Rasheed.

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