U.S. investors will get the 'red carpet'

Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government promised here Thursday to give the red carpet treatment to U.S. investors in the hopes that more American companies will do business in Indonesia.

"What we can promise you is that we will change the red tape into red carpet and that we will have zero tolerance for corruption," Investment Coordinating Board chairman Mohammad Lutfi told a delegation of U.S. businessmen.

The delegation comprises 130 senior executives of major U.S. companies, the largest ever to visit Indonesia, under the initiative of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the Indonesian Embassy for the U.S.

Speaking at a seminar held as part of the American businessmen's visit, Lufti assured the delegates of the government's arduous efforts in reforming the bureaucracy and improving the country's global competitiveness.

He also said the changes made by the government had given foreign investors more confidence in doing business in Indonesia as shown by the sharp increase in foreign investment.

According to him, realized foreign investment rose by 130 percent to US$48 billion at the end of the third quarter of this year from $21.8 billion in the same period last year, partly as the result of economic reforms.

Also speaking at the seminar were Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono and Trade Mari Elka Pangestu, briefing the delegates on some of the recent achievements in the country's economy.

Following the seminar, a gala dinner was held to honor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, during which he received the U.S. Business Council Leadership Award for his role in leading the nation in the face of challenges such as the tsunami, creating peace in Aceh and notable economic recovery.

"I accept this award on behalf of the Indonesian people, because changing a nation is not the job of one man but the work of a nation as a whole," the President said in his speech during the gala dinner.

The President also highlighted the challenges ahead for the country, particularly in the wake of recent hikes in the global oil price plus sharp turbulence in the global financial market due to the sub-prime mortgage problem.

"The IMF has predicted a slowing down of the global economy next year. This is why we need to work harder together to harness the opportunities that lie in wait and to establish a partnership that will help us both to deal with these present and future shocks," he said.

U.S.-ASEAN Business Council president Matthew P. Daley said in his speech that the council was ready to support the president in creating deeper cooperation between U.S. and Indonesian businesses under the U.S.-ASEAN partnership framework.

"The business council cannot speak for the senate or the government, but we are here to represent the American community, we want to recognize and to applaud the vision, the leadership and the courage you have displayed and which has helped so profoundly to bring the U.S. and Indonesia into a closer and much more productive relationship," he said.
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