The Thinker: A Fair World Order
A lot of talk came out of Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum discussed, among other things, emerging markets, equity investments and globalism in general earlier this year. At the same time, Indonesia as one of the so-called “emerging markets” is doing a lot of things considered unimaginable not too long ago. The country is a huge market and contributing so much to the world.
Take for instance the BlackBerry smartphones. The bulk of the BlackBerry market is Indonesia. When it comes to social media, Indonesia is the capital of Facebook and Twitter. In music, the Java Jazz Festival has proved to be the largest of its kind in the world.
In airlines, Indonesia is such a massive market that huge corporations such as Boeing and Airbus are dependent on it. They’re getting purchase orders of hundreds of aircraft. Indonesia’s Lion Air and Airbus have just signed an agreement to purchase more than 200 aircraft. Not too long ago, the same airline company ordered hundreds of aircraft from Boeing as well. Flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia is also purchasing aircraft from various manufacturers.
So, to a certain extent, Indonesia is feeding the world. Thousands of jobs will be created in France and the United States. Indonesian companies have proven capable of closing billion-dollar international deals. Due to the consumer boom, Indonesia is now a haven for foreign banks especially catering to the new middle class. Many banks own majority stakes in Indonesia. In this regard, Indonesia should become one of the most important markets.
It is true that Indonesia never speaks out on issues of achievements or about recognition although it is a fact that the country’s prominence on the world stage is rising. But it is also known that Indonesia always bows to foreign dictates.
In this regard, if Indonesia wants to speak out, for sure the foreign assumption will be that it is playing the nationalist card. But that is not exactly true. All Indonesia wants is fairness, mutual understanding and respect.
To date, only one person has stood up and hit back at complaining foreign miners, unhappy about Indonesia’s laws after a recent report from the Canada-based Fraser Institute. The institute found Indonesia to be the world’s least attractive place to do business in mining.
The report ranked Indonesia last out of 96 jurisdictions surveyed, down from 85th in 2011, citing “uncertainty concerning environmental regulations and uncertainty concerning the administration, interpretation or enforcement of existing regulations.”
One official, Thamrin Sihite, defiantly said that if these factors are considered constraints by them, then foreign investors should not enter. “Indonesians can do it,” he said. Thamrin also questioned the methodology used in the study. The 2009 Mining Law forces miners to move toward processing raw materials domestically by 2014 and requires renegotiation of mining contracts for the sake of the national interest. But Thamrin also has data about unfair practices and not all the mining regulations are being respected by foreign investors.
Another issue is agriculture. Indonesia’s crude palm oil industry is always regarded as environmentally damaging. But Indonesia’s CPO companies have consistently adhered to the strictest requirements and guaranteed that the CPO products are safe. Still, many efforts are taken to prevent Indonesian CPO and other agricultural products from entering the US under the pretext that they are unsafe for consumption.
At the same time, Indonesia never questions the safety of products imported from other countries such as soybeans from the US, oranges from China or dairy products from Europe. Who can assure that these products are safe? There should be reciprocal positioning on those issues. The only way to strike a balance is to have a powerful government willing to speak up about the national interest under the principle of equality and a fair world order.
Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of Globe Asia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe.