The Jakarta Post
Business associations that have contributed to supporting the national agenda need more support from the government, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) says.
This is especially so in seizing the opportunities from the approaching 2014 ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which will challenge Indonesia to compete with other countries in the region,
Not many associations are invited to discuss major decision-making discussions with the government, according to Rocky Pesik, Kadin's chairman of the permanent committee overseeing association coordination.
'[Associations] want more representation. It's our duty to convey their aspirations before it becomes a problem,' Rocky said during a media visit to The Jakarta Post's office.
There are currently around 200 associations registered with Kadin, but there are about 800 more that are not registered.
Kadin's annual national meeting (Rakernas) this year, slated for Sept. 11 in Jakarta, will take the theme of 'association empowerment for the purpose of national economic progress' and bring together member associations of the commerce chamber. Rocky said that the purpose of this meeting was to empower industry groups and provide opportunities for the associations to participate in national development and to speak for their members.
Kadin's deputy chairman for association coordination, Noke Kiroyan, said that business associations played a role in improving the country's economic situation.
'We need to improve on our institutional strength, because most businesses are active participants [in the national agenda] through their respective associations. That's why we're here to help them get along and maintain their drive,' he added.
Kadin would invite president-elect Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo or members of his government transition team to attend the September event, expecting the incoming government to interact with associations and businesses to discuss its long-term economic agenda.
Jokowi's administration will be faced with a challenge that has never before been faced by previous governments in the country, which is the opening up of the 10 Southeast Asian economies next year to create a single market without barriers.
There have been widespread concerns about Indonesia not being able to compete economically in a market that is set to expand at the onset of the AEC.
Goods and services ' including professionals from various fields and industries ' will be allowed to move freely within ASEAN during the first phase of the AEC.
In spite of this, Noke insisted that the AEC's implementation would be gradual and steady, urging the people to be more resolute and less self-conscious in the face of adversity.
'Why should there be an AEC if we continue to fear being attacked, even though we're a large country,' Noke said. 'We need not be afraid of foreign [competition]. Why don't we believe in ourselves, in our strengths?'
Indonesian businessmen have repeatedly warned that Indonesian manufacturers will be unable to compete with their peers in the AEC without the government's support.
Currently, imports from China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and other countries have been pouring into Indonesia's market, while domestic products have not been effectively marketed within the region. Most of Indonesia's goods are exported to non-ASEAN countries, government data shows.
ASEAN ' which comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia ' agreed in 2007 to establish the AEC. The free trade agreement will be fully implemented in 2015 by most members, with the exception of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, which will fully participate in 2018.
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