Tassia Sipahutar, Viriya Singgih and Arys Aditya – Indonesian President Joko Widodo is unfazed by the biggest student protests to hit the nation in over two decades against his government's legislative agenda and vowed to unveil more sweeping changes to labor and investment rules to fire up Southeast Asia's largest economy.
Jokowi, as the president is known, said in an interview with Bloomberg's Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait that it's his "first priority" to reform the labor rules. He also promised to open up more sectors of the economy to foreign investment and ease rules for business approvals.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
"We compete against other countries in attracting investment and to create jobs. Complaints from investors on labor law are always expressed to me, especially for labor-intensive sectors. They also express the need to simplify licensing."
"We will work on these two as soon as possible. I will talk to the labor unions, discuss with them how to revise the labor law, but without causing any loss for workers. This is for new workers, so that industries can expand, foreign investors can invest and help create jobs. It's important to communicate with unions. Communication is key. After that we will propose it to the parliament."
"Every year there are 3 million new workers in the job market. They must be given room to enter the job market. Second, we want to address investors' complaints. We have to revise the law and we hope that more investment will create competition among companies to get better workers."
"We will also propose 74 laws under an omnibus law so that licensing can be simplified."
"We will see the revision by the end of this year. For education, we will provide room for foreign universities to set up universities in the special economic zones. Foreign hospitals with the latest technology will also be allowed, but in the special economic zones. Also in the technology sector, we will provide room. We'll see by year end, we will see many sectors removed from the negative investment list to create more jobs."
"We have vast natural resources. We have plantations, CPO, so the opportunities are huge. This is important to give signal to investors that Indonesia wants investors to process raw materials to semi-processed or processed products."
"We want raw materials to be processed in Indonesia to become semi-processed or processed goods. Other commodities too. We want CPO to become processed goods. Why not? Or jet fuel, cosmetics or soap."
"Indonesia is a democracy. If people want to express their opinions, they can, but the most important thing is no anarchy, no riots, no destroying public facilities."
"We have delayed the revision of the criminal code. We want to get feedback from the public. There are many articles in the revision that are being misinterpreted and the information received by the public is misunderstood."
"KPK is an agency granted with great authority, it has extraordinary authority. Of course, there needs to be checks and balances, it requires supervision. There will be a supervisory board. If people disagree with this, they can take measures or actions guaranteed by the constitution. They can submit a judicial review proposal to the Constitutional Court. They can propose a legislative review. The president can issue a perppu. There are many actions that we can take. This is a democracy, but this is also a lawful country."
"We want Bank Indonesia to be able to manage monetary policy with prudence. I need to remind you that Bank Indonesia is independent. Government will not intervene, but I think if rates could fall, it would be good for the real sector. The government will not intervene. They know when to raise or to cut rate."
"The government wants the rate to fall, but the policy is up to Bank Indonesia."
"Indonesia wants to take opportunities, so that the trade war doesn't negatively impact our country. We have good relations with the U.S. and China. The most important thing is our national interest comes first."
"In 2015, there were forest fires and peat-land fires too. We visited the fields and fixed the management in terms of organization and law enforcement. In 2016, peat-land fires fell by 90%. In 2017, they fell almost 90%. In 2018, none. In 2019, we know that the weather is hotter and drier and it is easy for forests to catch fire. Today, thankfully we have accomplished much, with fires down by 85%."
"If the weather is hot, it will not be easy to put out forest fires. We are not talking about just 1-2 hectares, but hundreds of thousands of hectares. If the fire reache peat-land, that's when it becomes difficult."