JAKARTA – Indonesia’s President-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is calling for more investment from Japan, saying it is “very important for Indonesia” to create jobs, solve energy problems and build infrastructure.
In an interview in Jakarta, Jokowi, who will take office in October, noted that Japan has been “our largest partner” and that bilateral trade totals $46 billion.
He said manufacturing is a key area in which the country hopes to attract foreign investment.
In a wide-ranging interview in his office, the Jakarta governor said he hopes for an easing of disputes in the South China Sea between some of Indonesia’s ASEAN partners and China, and assured Indonesia is ready to help mediate in any way it can.
The former furniture businessman said he will place his administration’s focus on developing his country’s infrastructure.
The government must make regulations so the investment environment will be “more conducive for the private sector to channel more investment into infrastructure,” he said, adding his top priority will be maritime development.
“We need connectivity from island to island. I talked about sea tolls in our (presidential) debate, then double-track (railways), deep seaports (ranging) from Sumatra Java, Sulawesi to Papua,” he said.
Jokowi said Indonesia will be “open for business” under his Cabinet, as long as business is open to helping Indonesia.
Although the politician from Indonesia’s Democratic Party of Struggle had indicated during the presidential election campaign that he would implement measures to restrict foreign investment, his comments during the interview suggested Jokowi will attach importance to investment from Japan. More than 1,700 Japanese companies do business in Indonesia.
Speaking about Japan’s easing of its defense policy to allow collective self-defense, Jokowi said, “I don’t know, but for me soft diplomacy is more important,” insisting that he prefers diplomacy between businesses and people.
On Indonesia’s foreign policy, Jokowi said he plans to accept and build on current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s policy of “a million of friends and zero enemies.”
“This can increase foreign trade and foreign investment,” he added.
Although Jokowi still faces a challenge from rival Prabowo Subianto — who has disputed the election results in court — he is confident he will win out and that the Election Commission’s declaration of his election in last month’s voting will be sustained.
Looking ahead to his Cabinet, Jokowi said, “I am willing to take both technocrats and politicians, but I think I’ll take more technocrats, more professionals. But the first important thing is the commitment, strong commitment, the commitment to serve people, the commitment to serve Indonesia. Secondly is strong leadership. Thirdly is that they know about management, how to manage their ministries.”
As to national reconciliation after a divisive presidential election, the president-elect said he is unworried.
“Yes, I realize that the campaign had been very partisan and polarizing in nature, but having differences are parts of any modern democracy. But I am sure that everyone wants the best for our country,” he said. “It’s already solved. (The difference) is only among the elites.”