Handelsbanken is yet to commit to opening branches in the archipelago. The lender wants to help Indonesian companies gain access to markets to promote trade between Indonesia and Europe. (Antara Photo/Andika Wahyu)

World Economic Forum Turns Focus to Indonesia

FEBRUARY 20, 2015

Jakarta. The spotlight will be on Indonesia this April as it hosts the 24th World Economic Forum on East Asia in the nation’s capital, underlining the country’s growing influence in the regional economy.

Some 650 top business executives and government leaders will attend the international forum, a regional spin-off of the annual WEF in Davos, Switzerland, where they will discuss matters ranging from the economy to education.

This will be Indonesia’s second stint at hosting the forum, scheduled from April 19 to 21 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta.

Some of the companies slated to be represented at the forum include Shell, Chevron, Google and Microsoft.

The forum will also coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, featuring 109 representatives from the two continents.

“Indonesia is the largest economy in the Southeast Asian region and is the only [Southeast Asian] country in the G-20,” Sushant Palakurthi Rao, the senior director of the WEF in the Asia-Pacific region, said at a media briefing in Jakarta on Wednesday.

“It plays a very important role in connecting the big economies and the emerging countries.”

The forum comes at a time when the Indonesian government is seeking more foreign direct investment to speed up infrastructure development in the country, where investments make up a third of total economic output.

“The timing is right considering our big plans for development,” Bachrul Chairi, the Trade Ministry’s director general for international trade, said on Wednesday.

“Indonesia has to take advantage of this moment where world-class CEOs will meet our government leaders, especially the president. We can present our plans and network with the CEOs in our efforts to bolster Indonesia’s economy.”

President Joko Widodo has set out ambitious infrastructure development plans for the next five years — from building power plants to generate an additional 35 gigawatts of electricity, to developing 24 new seaports — and has reached out to both local and foreign investors to boost their presence in the country.

The Investment Coordinating Board, or BKPM, targets total investment this year of Rp 519.5 trillion ($40.4 billion) this year, up 14 percent from last year, with more than 60 percent coming from overseas.

“Growth rates [in Indonesia] are high, but infrastructure must keep up,” Rao said.

“[The WEF sees] the potential in Indonesia. It has been most improved. To maintain that positive momentum, it’s good that the [infrastructure development] vision is implemented quickly.”

The country recorded its slowest pace of economic growth in five years in 2014, at 5.02 percent, down from 5.8 percent in 2013. This year, the government hopes growth will rebound to 5.7 percent, backed by increased government and private-sector spending.

Indonesia ranked 34th in the WEF’s Global Competitiveness report for the 2014 to 2015 period, improving by four places from the year before.