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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Indonesia's minister of finance thinks Gulf markets will respond positively to sukuks despite a $10 billion drop in sales since early this year

Dubai: Indonesia's Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati is scheduled to attend an extraordinary gathering of Ministers of Finance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Dubai on October 8.
The Asean ministers and senior officials will discuss the economic outlook for their respective nations, the wider Asean bloc and the global economy as a whole at the Dubai gathering.
Ahead of the meetings, the minister answers Gulf News' questions on a range of topics related to Indonesian economy and its growing relations with the UAE and the Middle East region.
The minister also speaks about the impact of the current global financial turmoil on Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
Gulf News: An HSBC report recently reported that sukuks have witnessed a $10-billion drop in sales since early 2008 and an average price fall of 1.51 per cent. Viewed against Indonesia's impending plans to sell dollar-denominated sukuk, how do you view the appetite for Islamic bonds in the Gulf markets next year?
Sri Mulyani Indrawati: We still believe that our plan to sell sukuk is relevant and will get positive responses from Gulf markets. Our skuk will attract the demands of Gulf's investors for several reasons:
The sukuk is fully guaranteed by the government; The government has a good track record in fulfilling bond obligations; many investors are waiting the issuance of sukuk; and Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country, and the Sukuk is a tool to enhance the brotherhood between investors in Gulf countries and Indonesia.
My optimism also relies on data released by Standard and Poor's on Sep-tember 9 suggesting that the Sukuk market will rise again.
In this regard, I think the liquidity in the Gulf is still abundant and requires secured investment instruments such as our sukuk.
Given the large infrastructure needs of the country, what are the government's plans to boost foreign investment in the sector? What are the incentives for investors from the Gulf?
The Indonesian government gives highest priority to investment in infrastructure since the investment will accelerate economic growth, support further industrial development, and improve the economic welfare of Indonesians by reducing unemployment and poverty. To accomplish this, the government is taking several actions such as promoting private sector participation through public private partnerships. In 2006, we offered 10 major infrastructure projects for public tender valued at more than $4.5 billion (Dh16.5 billion). The government has also stipulated several regulations to support the infrastructure programme. In addition, incentives have been proposed to enhance the acceleration of infrastructure deployment. The government has implemented a new government policy of sharing certain risks such as political risk, project performance risk and demand risk, and to approve direct government credit support for infrastructure projects.
We are also in the process of designing special Sukuk offerings for financing infrastructure projects. In the future, such offerings may become an alternative instrument for investors in the Gulf to invest in Indonesia.
How has the Indonesian economy performed in the wake of global credit crisis and the strains in international capital markets? What impact does this have on trade and investment flows with the GCC?
We are not immune to the global crisis, and therefore, we had revised our growth from 6.6 per cent to 6.2 per cent this year. Our capital market also faces a decrease in stock prices, but we see the decrease as the global tendency. We believe we can rebound with the increase of economic growth in 2009 since our economic and financial fundamentals are strong and transparent. Our domestic market demand is still the main engine for growth, and still requires additional investment and increase in trade. In addition, we are optimistic to maintain double digit investment figures this year which is expected to be close to what we achieved last year.
UAE-based investors and companies have recently expressed their interest in developing infrastructure as well as investing in real estate, urban and agricultural development projects in Asian markets. What steps are the Indonesian government taking to encourage investment from the UAE?
Indonesia sees investment from the Middle East as a priority since the investment will bring benefits for both sides. Government (central and local) together with the private sectors are actively promoting investment opportunities to Middle East countries. As shown in Doing Business 2009, Indonesia has reduced drastically the time to start up a new company. In addition, the government has established one stop service for managing the related permits and procedures.
To accelerate the process, President Yudhoyono appointed a special envoy for Middle East Countries for the purpose of enhancing the relationship between Indonesia and Middle East including UAE.
Indonesia currently has several outstanding projects with UAE. The The projects include: one with Emaar Properties; international tourism city in cooperation with the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority; railroads and a new jetty as an initial stage of development of the integrated sea port for coal transportation in Tanjung Api-Api, South Sumatra; and Dubai dry-dock project in Batam. (Gulf News)
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