The Jakarta Post
The Congress of Indonesian Diaspora (CID), which brings together around 3,000 Indonesians and Indonesian descendants living overseas, is expected to provide a partnership platform for all parties to boost the Indonesian economy globally.
During his opening speech on Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he expected at least three synergies to emerge from the event.
'The first is the synergy among groups within the diaspora itself. Since it was created last year, we have seen the network expand and right now we have 55 chapters in 26 countries. We need to embrace other groups that have not yet been included,' he said.
The other two synergies, according to the President, are expected to be between the diaspora, the central government and local administrations, and between the diaspora and the Indonesian community at home.
He lauded the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Indonesian Diaspora Business Council (IDBC) and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) in 2012 as a way to accelerate initiatives among businesspeople.
The President also invited CID members to participate in mega infrastructure projects under the Master Plan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI), citing its US$400 billion planned investment before 2025.
According to various estimates, about 8 million Indonesians live in more than 120 countries. World Bank data shows that workers sent $7.2 billion back home in 2012, making Indonesia the third-largest remittance recipient in Southeast Asia.
Speaking at the same event, businessman Edward Wanandi, who is IDBC president, urged the creation of a member database and road map to assist CID members interested in the projects.
Another businessman, Iwan Sunito, who is a developer in Australia, said there were currently around 100,000 Indonesians living and working in various sectors in Australia.
'They are assets and great ambassadors through their work achievements,' he said. Iwan's company, Crown International Holdings Group, currently has a Rp 30 trillion ($2.87 billion) property portfolio.
This year's congress is the second after a similar event in Los Angeles, California, the US, in 2012. About 2,000 Indonesians and Indonesian descendants gathered in Los Angeles at last year's congress, in which they also agreed to establish the Indonesian Diaspora Network (IDN).
Meanwhile, Mohamad Al Arief, the president of IDN in the US, said 500,000 Indonesians living in the US earned $60,000 on average per year, which he claimed was higher than most Americans earned. 'That is why we believe that the 21st century holds a bright prospect for Indonesia,' he said.
On Monday, the IDN signed an MoU with state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) to be a financial partner, including for remittances. BNI president director Gatot Suwondo said the lender hoped to expand its remittance services beyond those offered to migrant workers at the moment.
From remittances alone, BNI received Rp 105.5 billion in fee-based income between January and June this year, up 5.3 percent from the same period a year before. Incoming remittances grew by 14 percent to $21.5 billion, while that of outgoing remittances rose 22 percent to $24 billion.
Similar to Gatot, Arief said that the partnership would hopefully assist diaspora members in obtaining mortgages or in investing in bonds ' citing the financial ability of Indonesians abroad.