President's plan to form new economic task force slammed

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Experts have criticized a plan by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to form a new working unit to help address the country's economic problems and improve the investment climate, saying the only thing the business community needed was a concrete and unified economic policy.

Yudhoyono should concentrate on making concrete policies and maximizing the existing resources, the chairman of the Indonesian National Economic Recovery Committee, Sofjan Wanandi, said Sunday.

"The planned unit is basically a good idea. But I doubt that the President will implement the input provided by the unit. He cannot even implement existing plans and resolve the problems already conveyed by the business community," he said.

In a Cabinet meeting Friday, Yudhoyono came up with the idea to form a unit tasked with providing input on ways to address economic problems at home, and also to supervise the implementation of the government's economic policies.

"The unit is part of a tool attached to the President. Its task will be to smooth reform in the economy, administration, state enterprises and small and medium businesses," Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono said after the meeting.

The unit, which will be formed through presidential decree, will consist of professional economists and businesspeople. There are reports that former Cabinet secretary and former attorney general Marsilam Simanjuntak has been tapped to lead the unit.

Boediono said the unit also would help the government improve the business climate and ensure that problems faced by the business community would be addressed effectively and promptly.

Economist Aviliani said such a unit would be a waste of energy because the economic policies applied by Yudhoyono were no different from those of previous administrations.

"The real sector needs a breakthrough in economic policies, not more advisers or new plans. If the unit can only provide similar programs to those already arranged by the economic ministers, it would be just another waste," she said.

Since taking office in October 2004, experts say Yudhoyono has failed to introduce any substantial economic policies to help encourage investment, despite having already replaced his chief economic minister and finance minister.

Local and international investors remain concerned about illegal fees, a complex bureaucracy, legal uncertainty and unfriendly local administrations, with few signs their concerns are being addressed.

While Yudhoyono and his economic team blame external factors as the main cause of the country's economic problems, the business community sees little effort being made to lessen the impact by concretely addressing the problems.

"The problems have already been laid out by the business community. What Yudhoyono should do is execute the economic policies already planned. He should be quick because the real sector is not developing and unemployment is soaring," Sofjan said.

Indonesia is facing an economic slowdown with sluggish growth in the real sector, which has seen the number of unemployed rise to 40.1 million, or 37 percent of the country's 107 million workforce.
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