Singapore-Indonesia spat on unpublished trade statistics

July 10, 2003
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

AFP Report

Singapore and neighbouring Indonesia are in dispute over discrepancies in their bilateral trade figures, it emerged Sunday.

The two have clashed over an apparent 2.49 billion US dollar gap in the figures compiled by Indonesia and Singapore for Indonesian exports to the city-state.

The spat emerged in a letter dated July 4 to Indonesian trade minister Rini Suwandi in which Singapore Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo refuted allegations that the city-state has not been transparent about its trade figures with Indonesia.

Discrepancies in trade data statistics between two countries are due to the different systems used to gather the figures and should not “surprise statisticians”, Yeo said in the letter, made available to media over the weekend.

“As I explained to you in Khon Kaen (Thailand), discrepancies in the trade statistics of two countries should not surprise statisticians,” Yeo said.
The two ministers had met in Thailand on the sidelines of an APEC meeting last month.

“It depends on the basis of compilation and other factors. Even when countries collect trade statistics on the same basis, time lags in capturing of data and valuation differences will lead to discrepancies,” he said in response to a June 16 letter from his Indonesian counterpart.

Yeo said the city-state also has significant trade discrepancies with other countries including Malaysia, China and the United States.

According to Yeo, Singapore includes certain breakdown of trade statistics such as data on re-exports and bunker exports which Indonesia does not.
“Therefore, Singapore’s export figures will not be equal to Indonesia’s import figures, and vice versa,” he said in the letter.

Singapore does not publish trade data on Indonesia based on a mutual agreement by leaders of the two countries in 1974 but the city-state has handed annual data to Jakarta over the past 29 years, Yeo said.

“However, we have always informed Indonesia that we would have no problems should Indonesia choose to publish the data,” Yeo said. “Up to last year, Indonesia had chosen not to do so.