Tuesday, 03 July, 2012 | 22:51 WIB
“You Can’t Fool Investors”: Chatib Basri
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:MUHAMMAD Chatib Basri, 47, lives a very busy life. He sits as a commissioner within many state-owned companies and makes a raft of investment decisions for the said companies, outside of lecturing at the University of Indonesia. Despite his busy schedule, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono rang him recently to lead the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), he agreed. Chatib Basri agreed to speak with Tempo reporters Andari Karina Anom, Gustida Budhiartie and photographer Aditya Noviansyah on his latest high-profile appointment. Excerpts:
Q: Are you going to create new policies at BKPM?
A: I rather focus on fixing the old policies rather than making new extraordinary changes. Our prospects are goo, after all.
Q: But you’ll spend only 2 years at the BKPM.
A: I’m realistic and I realize in practice I’ll have even less than two years. To attract investors, we need success stories that will change people’s perception about Indonesia. Promotion only is not enough. We don’t want investors to come in here without knowledge of where to go. It’s just like inviting people to come, then abandoning them at the airport.
Q: So, what will you do?
A: Before, when people wanted to invest and then were rejected, they didn’t know why. This can’t happen anymore. When providing services, everything should be clear. Our function is like a clearing house (of information). When they have questions or complaints, they know where to go. Questions like, what document is needed? Or, how long is the process? When is the permit issued? And so on. This will show that investing in Indonesia is feasible.
Q: Have you talked to any potential investors?
A: I’ve been here [in my new post] for just a few days and a lot of people have already come and are telling me that they’re interested in investing. Indonesia has more people than Malaysia and Australia combined. Toyota and some electronic companies are thinking of making Indonesia their production base. They can’t ignore this large market. Look at Astra and Unilever, they’ve been doing well. There are many factors here that is not causing me worry.
Q: Like what?
A: Investors who cannot invest in Europe or America because of the economic crisis there will find emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. In Asia, strong markets are located in China, India, and Indonesia.
Q: What investment that you will prioritize?
A: Fruits that can be readily plucked, for instance, because they hang low. Because of our limited resources, we will be selective with large investments in terms of the price and the impact. We will pay more attention to Small and Medium-sized enterprises (UKM). They are the ones that support the economy.
Q: What are you specifically referring to when you talk of fruits that hang low?
A: Investments that are mostly related to natural resources and consumptive products. They have significant potential, and in the short term, investors will be attracted to this kind of investment.
Q: Our workers are paid really low wages, and can be used as a selling point today to pull investors?
A: Our wages for workers are still higher than China. We need to compete in regard to model, design and quality. The fact is there are investors who do not want to enter here. Take for instance, RIM (Blackberry maker Research in Motion). RIM instead is constructing a factory in Malaysia, even though Indonesia is its biggest market. If I were RIM boss, I would indeed think the same way: let Penang be the production basis.
The logistic fees (from Penang) to Indonesia is cheaper than the local fees here, from Java to Sumatra for example. We have to improve our logistics matters. Otherwise, they will use us as market only. But we have many interested in opening automotive factories here.
Q: What countries that are interested in investing here?
A: Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China. They also have interests in energy security. Head of BKPM should be able to “sell” Indonesia in the international business world.