Australian investors show confidence in RI economy
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Visiting Australian fund managers expressed confidence in the Indonesian economy Monday, describing the government's recent investment package as strong enough to create a better investment climate.

"I think we are very encouraged ... there's an excellent chance the economy will get better in the following years," ANZ Banking Group senior managing director Bob Edgar told reporters during a visit to Panin Bank headquarters in Jakarta on Monday.

Bob was among 30 executives of global fund managers and bankers from Australia who were visiting Indonesia to take a closer look at the investment environment here.

The fund managers included Merril Lynch, JP Morgan, CSFB, Macquarie, Citigroup and ABN Amro.

"All investors are looking for consistency and stability. I think the Indonesian government knows this," said Bob, whose company owns a 29 percent stake in Panin Bank.

Panin Bank consumer banking director John Winders said the visit was aimed at making foreign investors better aware of actual economic conditions here.

"We want them to know why we (ANZ) invest a lot of money here," he said, adding that ANZ had invested about US$400 million in Indonesia. Merril Lynch, JP Morgan and Citigroup are among the shareholders of ANZ.

"Now they can see things from a first-hand source, not from CNN or The International Herald Tribune," he said. Foreign media, John added, often failed to reflect what was really happening in Indonesia.

He said the 30 fund managers had talked earlier with Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono over a business breakfast at the Shangri-La hotel, along with Australian ambassador to Indonesia Bill Palmer and New Zealand ambassador Philip Gibson.

The package, which was announced last Thursday, is aimed at removing barriers to investment by making various improvements in four general policy areas: taxation, customs and excise, labor, and the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector.

It also includes a commitment to reducing the time needed for the granting of business licenses from 150 days to 30 days.

"They are happy about it. At least they know that the government is doing something to make Indonesia a better country for everyone, including for businesspeople," Winders said.

He also said the fund managers were upbeat that the Indonesian economy would be better in 2006 than in 2005.

"We are convinced that in the second half of 2006 the economy will start to improve with more car and motorcycle sales, and more credit for houses and small and medium enterprises.

We hope that interest rates will go down and the currency will be stable," he said.

However, Bob Edgar said ANZ had no immediate plans to increase its investment in Panin Bank this year. "We would like to do that in the long term. We are looking for a better opportunity," he said.

ANZ Banking Group is one of the biggest business groups in Australia and New Zealand, and also one of the world's top 50 banks.

The bank, based in Melbourne, Australia, was established in 1830 under the name of Bank of Australasia.

Arriving in Indonesia on Sunday, the fund managers were scheduled to depart for the Philippines on Monday evening before proceeding to China. (01)
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