Indonesia courts foreign investors

Business, Normal

JAKARTA: Indonesia is hoping to throw off its reputation for natural disasters and corruption and become a magnet for the foreign investment deemed vital to its plans to become an Asian powerhouse.
But investment coordinating board chairman Gita Wirjawan said the mainly Muslim archipelago of some 235 million people  had a long way to go before it could take its place alongside China and India in the so-called Asian Century.
“We’ve got a PR deficit … for foreigners, Indonesia is a country of tsunamis, earthquakes, terrorism, street demonstrations and scandals. That needs to be changed,” he told an economic conference in Jakarta.
“Nobody knows (that) Indonesia is the fourth-largest country in the world with 235 million people and the third-largest democracy.”
Spooked by the turmoil surrounding the 1997-98 financial crisis and the fall of the Suharto regime, foreign investors have taken a long time to start to think again about Indonesia’s potential, analysts said.
But it is now roaring back into favour, with its large and upwardly mobile domestic market and sound economic fundamentals catching the eye of fund managers with a new appetite for risk.
Wirjawan is frank in his assessment of the job ahead: “We have a big mission. But our task is not easy.”
He said Indonesia hoped to attract US$90 billion of private infrastructure investment in the next five years, the lion’s share of an ambitious US$140 billion- infrastructure spending plan.
“Three years ago, Indonesia was not seen as a relevant country by international investors,” HSBC Indonesia chief executive Rakesh Bhatia said.
“Now we see a continuous flow on the stock market (up more than 80% over the past year) … and Indonesia has done a remarkable job in fiscal and monetary policy. The currency is stable and the banking sector is very sound.” – AFP