Govt needs to 'walk the talk': ABAC

Ika Krismantari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"Stop talking and start working" is the strong message sent by Indonesian business to the government in relation to its efforts to increase investment and improve the country's competitiveness amid the challenges of rapid globalization.

Indonesian businesspeople attending the recent 14th annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), have urged the government to deliver on the promises made in its economic reform packages.

To improve investment, infrastructural development and the country's competitiveness, ABAC suggested, the government must carry out its policies, including the overhauling of the investment, tax and labor legislation. The amendment bills are currently stalled in the House of Representatives.

"I'm afraid that if we do not accelerate the process, we will be eliminated from the competition," ABAC member Sofjan Wanandi told a press briefing.

He said that the policy packages issued under a 2006 presidential decree, and major changes to the customs and excise, taxation and work permit rules, had not panned out as expected, with most of the proposals still being stuck in the House of Representatives.

If things do not change, local manufacturing industry could be heading for collapse within five years, he claimed.

"I think there has been enough traveling and going to other countries. Most of the work that has still to be done is now at home," Sofjan said, clearly referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who also attended the APEC Summit meeting in Hanoi.

ABAC Indonesia chairman John A. Prasetio stressed the importance of accelerating policy implementation as this would reassure investors. "For business, it would be better to have imperfect regulations now then to have perfect ones in five years time."

The latest report from the World Bank shows that Indonesia remains one of the most difficult places in the world to do business. It was ranked 135th out of 175 countries surveyed for the 2007 Doing Business report, compared to 131st out of 155 countries in the 2006 report.

Established in 1989, APEC, which includes 21 member economies that account for 60 percent of the world's GDP at some US$19.2 trillion, has set a non-binding deadline for eliminating tariffs by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for emerging economies.
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