SBY Vows to ‘Think Big’ for Developing Countries at G-20
Muhammad Al Azhari
With the Group of 20 summit opening this week likely to be dominated by the economic crisis in Europe, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will aim to get the interests of developing countries high on the main agenda, his aides say.
Yudhoyono arrived in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Saturday for the seventh G-20 Summit, which brings together leaders of 20 major economies.
“Indonesia will take advantage of this summit to encourage the creation of a more conducive climate to speed up recovery from the financial crisis, particularly in the euro zone,” Teuku Faizasyah, Yudhoyono’s special aide for international relations, said on Sunday as quoted by state news agency Antara, adding that Indonesia wouuld propose several measures.
Indonesia was one of the few G-20 economies to post strong economic growth in 2011. Last year, the combined GDP of the G-20 increased 2.8 percent, a marked deceleration compared to the 5.0 percent growth it recorded in 2010.
Yudhoyono, speaking en route to Mexico, said he expected Indonesia to play a more active role in the G-20. “The world expects that as part of the G-20, Indonesia can do something for the world,” he said.
But to able to contribute to the global discourse, he said Indonesia had to maintain strong growth at home.
Part of this, he said, was accelerating growth through developing small- and medium-scale enterprises. In Indonesia, SMEs have proven to be the backbone of the economy and could serve as a national safety net in times of crisis, he said.
Stronger cooperation between the government and the private sector was also needed, the president said.
At the same time, Yudhoyono acknowledged that Indonesia’s subsidy policy and investment climate had always been the focus of attention of G-20 states.
“We are often pressured with regard to our subsidy policy,” he said. “I will tell the G-20 that the subsidies help the very poor.”
Yudhoyono said Indonesia’s investment climate “still has to improve,” adding that the government was prioritizing infrastructure development toward this end.
However, Agustinus Prasetyantoko, an economist at Atma Jaya University in Jakarta, said Indonesia’s role in the G-20 was as a cheerleader.
“We have little bargaining power and mostly serve as a market for the products of developed countries,” he said.
Ahmad Erani Yustika, an economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance, said Indonesia failed to take advantage of its place in the G-20.
“We have not used the forum to make the global economy a fair playing field. We always succumb to developed countries that push for the liberalization of our economy without fully assessing the impact to our people,” he said.
Yudhoyono, however, called on Indonesians to play a bigger role. “We have our strengths, we are developing and this should drive us to take a firmer stance on the global stage,” Yudhoyono said.
“We need to think bi g and realize that we are a regional power and can bring solutions to the table,” he added.
Additional reporting by Antara, AFP & ID/Primus Dorimulu