Tue, 08 Mar 2005

Pillars of RI economy

I would like to add to Margarette Haskell's comments Foreign investment in Indonesia published in The Jakarta Post dated Feb. 28. In my 30 years of doing business in Indonesia, I have heard my share of complaints, criticisms and both horror and success stories from foreigners doing business in Indonesia. While there are always two sides to every story and no business goes without its share of problems, one thing is for sure, foreign investors deserve to be given a fair and level playing field, which is certainly not the present case.

Being very candid, my observation and experience is that foreign investors are not viewed as a national assets but more often than not "portrayed as competitors who take jobs from the locals," or even as "opportunists only interested in making a quick buck who then exit stage right".

As a consequence thereof, laws and services lean more toward protectionism and less toward supporting foreign investment. Quite the contrary, along with the risk of losing their money, most businesses are complex and require a long-term commitment. If one is to enjoy any return on the investment, one must be smart, work diligently and adapt to local conditions.

Benefits to Indonesia are much more than simply cash; they are a continuous and wealthy spread of knowledge, expertise, jobs, training, and quality control that provide competitive services and products for national and exported consumption. A showcase are those of Chinese, Arab, and Indian descent, who in the past came as foreign investors and with time have become Indonesian citizens and are now "pillars of the economy."

At a time when rebuilding Indonesia's economy is so vital, it is a shame that we are losing so many potential foreign investors to competitive Asian neighbors who are much more service-oriented and whose laws support their cause.

Much hope and trust have been put on the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla administration to make constructive changes that will improve Indonesia's economy and ultimately, improve the standard of living. The burden is heavy and many steps are required to achieve positive results and move Indonesia onto a path to prosperity. Making Indonesia more conducive to both small and large-scale foreign investments is just one of the many essential adjustments that is urgently required.

Given that the media plays a crucial role as an independent and objective voice, may I suggest the Post do a feature article that provides a comprehensive report on the issues, obstacles, and expectations of foreign investors doing business in Indonesia. I am sure many foreign investors, even some similar to myself who have spent a significant number of years in Indonesia, will welcome the opportunity to be interviewed and contribute to this topic.

RON MULLERS, PT Eatertainment International Tbk., Jakarta