The American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia aspires to be the “advocate of choice” for US companies doing business in Indonesia, according to our internal strategic plan. Simply put, this means that we promote a more conducive business environment in order to help Indonesia realise its full potential.
Reforming the business climate is complicated but we are fortunate to be working with a supportive and open government under President Joko Widodo. His stated aim since coming into office in October 2014 has been to create a regulatory environment that eases burdens on businesses and enhances rather than limits opportunity. This guiding principle has set a direction that tries to be helpful to business.
Because of the positive attitude at the top, we have numerous occasions to engage with senior government officials and add input from our companies to crucial government regulations. Do we always win? Certainly not, but on many occasions our voice, along with those of other local and foreign chambers, has resulted in key changes on a range of issues from patents to permitting.
Since the president came into office, there have been important changes in the Negative Investment List (DNI), which outlines restrictions and opportunities for investors, and more are on the way. Our chief recommendation has long been that the government do away with the DNI altogether and stop using a “negative” list to begin what should be a positive discussion about investment. We have yet to win that battle but we have seen concrete steps to open up greater areas of the economy to much-needed foreign investment.
Similarly, in areas like work permits for foreign executives, we have seen some easing of overly complex procedures that govern the way companies hire expatriates. We are not yet where we want to be but the direction is positive. Our argument on this is simple – let companies make their own hiring decisions.
Businesses only hire expensive expats when they need to and they quickly train local counterparts to take over the reins as soon as possible. Expatriates bring much-needed money, expertise and global standards to Indonesia and are a net gain for an economy whose growth is outstripping its ability to provide the skilled manpower it needs. This is a good problem to have and we are glad that the president and his team have been largely open to our message on this.
It’s about relationships
How does a foreign business chamber pursue advocacy? Build friendships and alliances. That may sound simple but this can be complex and time consuming. At AmCham, we seek to identify individuals in government who are making decisions that impact our businesses. This could be the minister but more often it is a senior official who is writing regulations and creating rules that impact investment. We seek meetings to clarify issues and ask for the opportunity to review regulations before they are issued.
It is important that we create the opportunities needed to build relationships. One way we do this is through our annual Investment Summit, held in partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, which brings major companies together with Indonesian cabinet officials to discuss issues and seek solutions. Since 2014, the Summit has helped us set a work agenda for the year and led to important links between American businesses and the Indonesian government.
Each year we also release an original Investment Report that illuminates and analyses the investment climate.
Our AmCham committees – led by our members – are also advocacy platforms for issues in life sciences, information technology, intellectual property rights and taxation, among others. We also coordinate much of what we do with the US Embassy, with whom we have an excellent working relationship.
In addition, we work closely with our counterparts in the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) and the Indonesian Employers’ Association (Apindo). We all want to make doing business easier in order to boost revenues, increase employment and see the Indonesian economy grow and prosper. Please join us and become part of the solution in Indonesia!
A. Lin Neumann had a long career in journalism, including as the founding editor of the Jakarta Globe, before joining AmCham in 2014 where he is Managing Director, AmCham Indonesia. He can be reached at [email protected] Join AmCham by visiting www.amcham.or.id or call (62-21) 526-2860.
Text by A. Lin Neumann. This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine July 2018 issue “Health in a Era of Urbanisation”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.