09/29/2015, 00.00
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Faced by a major economic downturn, Jakarta woos Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Indonesia

by Mathias Hariyadi
As the economy slows, the rupiah hits its lowest point in 17 years. Since August 26,000, jobs have been lost. At the 13th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention in Bali, Indonesian politicians tried to woe Chinese business by cutting red tape. Currency devaluation is a good opportunity for foreign investors, Indonesian economist says.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The 13th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention (WCEC) was held on the island of Bali between 25 and 28 September.

In her opening address, former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said that Indonesia “is so big that we need your presence and (financial) help to invest”. This is particularly important for the Southeast Asian nation because since August, it has lost thousands of jobs.

At least 3,000 business people attended the bi-annual gathering from 30 countries. Given Indonesia’s economic woes, this year the convention gave Indonesian politicians an opportunity to woe Chinese investors to jumpstart the economy.

The crisis can be measures by the drop in the Indonesian rupiah, which is at its lowest in 17 years, trading against the dollar for 14.700. Job figures are not much better. Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri noted that 26,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector in August, with plants working fewer shifts to maintain efficiency.

Coordinating Minister of Economics Minister Darmin Nasution said that more job losses can be expected on the short run because the economy “is growing slowly at present.”

One of the most affected sectors is cigarette manufacturing, a major part of the national economy since six Indonesians out of ten still smoke in a population of 260 million.

Hasan Aoni Aziz, secretary general of the Cigarette Producers Association (GAPPRI), said that “for the first time” production dropped significantly; hence, 15,000 workers had to be let go since the start of the year.

Indonesian authorities plan a series of measures to facilitate foreign investment in the country. New regulations would cut red tape for companies willing to invest in Indonesia.

Security Minister Hasan Aoni Aziz, who was present at the Bali meeting, said that “investment procedures would be streamlined”.

Speaking to convention participants, Kiki Barki, president of the Indonesian Association of Chinese entrepreneurs (PERPIT), said, "This is a great opportunity for all of you to invest in our country”.

Since the Indonesian rupiah dropped against the dollar, less foreign capital is needed for the same investment. “If three years ago you had to bring two dollars to invest here, now you need only a dollar,” Barki explained.

Next year, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to start the transition towards the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

Under its terms, free movement of labour among members states will be possible. This will have major repercussions on Indonesia’s labour market. In fact, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has already come in for criticism for not protecting Indonesian workers.

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