Elizabeth Jackson reports from Jakarta
Indonesia's economic growth is being seen as a ray of sunshine in the gloomy world of economic volatility. It wasn't that long ago and the emerging economy was treated as something of a basket case. But now it's become a beacon for those keen to see the transformation for themselves and to learn about this $1 trillion economy at the time of a global downturn. Any doubts Indonesia might have had about whether it had really arrived on the global economic stage were dispelled, much to its satisfaction, this week. Helen brown reports from Jakarta.
It's turned out to be quite the week for Indonesia. It was known for some time that the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, was coming to town. It then transpired that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was going to be here at the same time.
Two influential people who are centre stage in the negotiations of the global debt crisis and they met the president on the same day. And what did they talk about when they met the him, as well as senior ministers and officials? Well, many things; the eurozone crisis, US economic woes, of course, areas of mutual benefit, and reforms to be progressed. Both women praised Indonesia for reducing its debt and strengthening its economy. Christine Lagarde was publicly fulsome. So when I look at all economies of the world, Indonesia stands out as a very successful one.
But why travel to Indonesia? Well, didn't you know? It's become the place to be, especially if you're talking economics. South East Asia's biggest economy is posting solid growth of about 6 per cent, and has been cruising around that figure for a couple of years. I say cruising, because many analysts say the growth rate could go much higher, if the country sorted out its depleted infrastructure, corruption, and red tape issues. But even with those limitations, it's one of the few countries in the world that's posting that kind of growth; mainly because it's rich in resource exports, and is steadily building consumer class of tens of millions who are creating a huge domestic market. And that is a significant attraction for the many other countries that find their economies are stagnant, or teetering. Since I arrived in Indonesia in about 18 months ago, there has been one discerningly fascinating trend. I have watched and reported as the business world has steadily beaten a path to Indonesia's door. I saw it first at premium gatherings, such as the World Economic Forum, where business and political leaders talked about the benefits and challenges in the region. Soon after, the European Union conducted a massive trade event around an ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) meeting. There was the Business for the Global Environment Summit, another event about innovation, and too many too keep up with, quite frankly. The United States decided the best way for it to find a market niche in Indonesia was to promote its knowledge of the entrepreneurial spirit. It launched a programme to find and nurture some of the country's budding business stars. And only recently I met the Finnish minister for foreign trade, who joined with his Estonian counterpart in coming to Indonesia to talk about business opportunities, using a well-known phone manufacturer and an online game; something to do with unhappy birds … The Czech president also just recently dropped in for a few days. It's all about one thing: to find out how they can do business with this emerging, dynamic nation. But it was the tour by the head of the IMF that really capped it off for Indonesia. There is a long memory here of the dark days when Indonesia's banks were collapsing, and the country was forced to seek billions of dollars in loans from the IMF. The terms were dictated by western developed nations and Indonesia felt humiliated. That loan was paid off in 2005. And now the developed world is coming to Indonesia, and the IMF is giving it praise. It is, as the deputy finance minister, Mahendra Siregar, noted, an historic moment. Indonesia can now direct some of its own power. MAHENDRA SIREGAR
…Indonesia as a member, Indonesia is the shareholder of the IMF and World Bank. So it can do whatever it wants with that (laughter); not the other way around. HELEN BROWN
There is no doubt Indonesia is basking in this moment, perhaps even being a little bit cocky. But it was a quiet utterance by the president, which revealed the nation's pride. As Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono waited to welcome the IMF's Christine Lagarde, he unexpectedly directed his gaze to the gathered media and said: (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono speaking) "Now we can stand up firmly in front of the IMF." And standing firm Indonesia is. This is Helen Brown for Correspondents Report, in Jakarta.
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