By Neil Chatterjee & Novrida Manurung 

 Consumer-focused companies from Ikea to European automakers are putting money into Indonesia to target the country’s young population. Investment will grow at least 15 percent this year, a slower pace than last year’s 27 percent, and a more sustainable level, Mahendra Siregar, chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), said in Jakarta on Wednesday. Investment growth has been faster in recent years only as it came from a lower base, with the main challenges a lack of infrastructure and the need to improve the ease of doing business, he said. The Indonesian government is seeking foreign investment to support growth in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, which slowed to the weakest in four years in 2013, and help narrow a current account deficit. Elections for a new president in July are spurring consumer confidence, leading to greater investor interest in the world’s fourth-largest population, Mahendra said. “Everybody has confidence that investing in Indonesia is almost a must,” Mahendra said in the interview, after recent trips to meet investors in South Korea, Vietnam, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “The biggest opportunity is the growing market.” The number of middle class and affluent Indonesians is reported to almost double to 141 million by 2020. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta) The number of middle class and affluent Indonesians is reported to almost double to 141 million by 2020. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta) Mahendra will head to the United States this month to meet with software and gaming companies including Facebook, Google and Yahoo! to discuss designing applications aimed specifically at a country with half the population aged below 30. Facebook, with 65 million users in Indonesia, opened an office in the capital last month, the Jakarta Post reported. Cars, shopping The country has a pipeline of Rp 1,400 trillion ($122 billion) to Rp 1,500 trillion of investments, based on investor interest in the past two years, Mahendra said. Around two thirds is foreign direct investment, and consumer-focused manufacturing and services have replaced natural resources as the key area, he said. The number of middle class and affluent Indonesians may almost double to 141 million by 2020, according to The Boston Consulting Group, while McKinsey & Company estimates 90 million Indonesians will join the “consuming class” by 2030. The hottest industry for investment is automotives, with companies from Europe, the US and South Korea either planning new investments or expansion of existing plants, Mahendra said, declining to name them. Monthly car sales rose an average 5 percent in the first quarter, after reaching 1.2 million last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Only around 10 percent of Indonesians have a car, showing the growth potential, with existing investment expected to lift the country’s production capacity, Mahendra said. Ikea store Ikea, which already gets some of its wood from the country, will open its first store in Indonesia this year, he said. Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer, will invest $100 million for its first store due to be opened in September, Mark Magee, its Indonesia general manager, said in November. Dubai companies are interested in investing in consumer goods, hospitals, mineral smelting and property, he said after talks in the country, while the National Bank of Abu Dhabi is looking at Indonesia, he said, with the country needing access to cheaper long-term funding for infrastructure projects. The top challenge remains infrastructure, he said. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who steps down this year after two terms, has struggled to make progress on the new ports, railways and roads needed to transport goods. The country ranked 114th among 177 countries in a 2013 Transparency International survey on corruption perceptions, also undermining its investment appeal. Election promise Indonesia came 120th out of 189 countries for the ease of doing business in a World Bank study. In an effort to address this, Mahendra said this month he had moved the application process online for a “principal license,” an early permit that allows a company to open an office, and other steps needed would be moved online later this year. Foxconn Technology Group has such a license, though its plans to invest in mobile-phone manufacturing in Java have yet to be completed, he said. Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is the frontrunner to replace Yudhoyono after his party led unofficial results in an April 9 parliamentary election. While Joko has taken steps to address Jakarta traffic and cut red tape, he has yet to detail policy plans for the country. Indonesian markets rallied after his candidacy was announced on expectations he will get things done. “The election has become a positive factor to investment,” said Mahendra, a former deputy finance minister who has worked with Joko as a city leader and furniture-exporting businessman. “Changes always bring new hope and new expectation, that’s the biggest boost of the election to investment, as Indonesia growth is driven by consumer confidence and with that comes investor confidence.” East Java Indonesia’s consumer confidence index rose in March to the highest level in 16 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Foreign funds have poured $2.7 billion into Jakarta stocks this year and the rupiah is up more than 6 percent, the most among 11 Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The greater Jakarta area pulled in three-quarters of total manufacturing investment last year, and its roads risk becoming the world’s largest car park within a few years, Mahendra said. He is trying to persuade companies to instead invest elsewhere in Java island, which holds over half of Indonesia’s population. “Everyone knows Indonesia has 17,000 islands, but they don’t even know where central Java and east Java are,” he said. New industrial estates are being finished this year near Gresik, a port city in east Java, while the Madura Strait has been deepened to allow for bigger container ships, he said. The country’s reliance on natural-resource exploitation, in the world’s top exporter of coal for power stations, tin and nickel ore last year, is not sustainable as a source of investment, Mahendra said. Mining investment has decreased from one-third of the total previously to about 15 percent now. The country also only has a window of around 20 years to take advantage of a demographic dividend for consumer manufacturers, meaning longer-term gains have to be driven by improved competitiveness, he said. Mahendra said he expects his trip to the US will lead online services companies to “invest more in giving solutions to Indonesia.” Bloomberg

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