Determined to keep abreast of affairs throughout the country, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyon has installed a 'situation room' at the Presidential Palace. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Next Great Emerging Markets

By Kristin Graham, The Motley Fool, May 24, 2008

Close your eyes ...

Imagine yourself as an investor more than a century ago -- prior to the industrialization of the United States. Would you have bet your money on the growth potential of our nation? Knowing the outcome a hundred years later, you wouldn't hesitate to answer.

We can't rewind to the past

Unfortunately for our generation, those days are long gone on domestic soil. The opportunity for high-flying GDP growth and rapid infrastructure development is in the past.

GDP growth in the United States has averaged just 3.3% annually for the past 25 years. It will struggle to reach even 1% this year, despite continuous technological advancement in the United States. And because many guru investors, including Warren Buffett, argue that GDP growth is a key ingredient to long-term market returns, the future doesn't look so bright for domestic-only investors.

But even if you weren't around for the roaring '20s, you didn't completely miss your chance for the exponential growth that infrastructure development can offer. While the U.S. can no longer capitalize on heavy infrastructure expansion for growth, beyond our borders lies a world full of nations -- exploding with growth -- that can.

A new investment frontier

China and India certainly won't be running out of steam soon, but these countries are already emerging and are off to a great start. To capture the even more exciting early years of initial growth, you need to find economies that possess characteristics that point toward becoming the next emerging market.

While not as prominent as the BRIC foursome of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, investor buzz is starting to collect around tiny economies such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bulgaria. Dubbed as the "Frontier Markets" by the Barra Index, these economies are just beginning their development stages; they hold less than 1% of the money invested in stock markets worldwide.

But that will all change soon. Goldman Sachs anticipates that Indonesia and Vietnam will be two of the 15 largest economies. And looking at the accomplishments of past emerging markets, the prospects are enticing. According to a recent Newsweek article, the current major emerging markets, including China and India, also held fewer than 1% of worldwide stock market money back in 1987. Today, that share has increased to 12%.

Sign me up

Unfortunately, gaining access to these markets isn't always that easy. While a handful of notable American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), such as Telkom Indonesia (NYSE: TLK) or Bancolombia (NYSE: CIB), offer investors direct exposure to these frontier economies, there aren't many companies available for direct investment. But that doesn't mean your only option is to fall back on an ETF or closed-end fund. 

The key is to search for strong global players that can capitalize on the growth in these countries by investing portions of their business there. This will provide exposure while minimizing some of the risk inherent in investing in frontier markets. 

For example, American International Group (NYSE: AIG) owns a majority stake in a Bulgarian telecommunications company, and Allied Irish Banks (NYSE: AIB) agreed to purchase a stake in a Bulgarian bank earlier this year. General Electric (NYSE: GE) has been investing in Vietnam since 1993, and energy behemoth ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) has become the largest foreign investor in any industry in Vietnam -- plowing more than $1.3 billion into invested capital projects since 1996. And while you probably associate Nigeria with scam emails, it's the largest oil producer in Africa. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) is so bullish on the country's prospects that it will continue its $11 billion investment in the country's oil sector through 2011. 

And it isn't just enormous firms who are optimistic. Fund managers are tapping into these countries for foreign portfolio exposure. According to Cliff Quisenberry, manager of the Eaton Vance Tax Managed Emerging Markets Fund, countries in the bottom 4% of the world capitalization universe returned roughly 18.1% annualized over the past decade, versus a 5.6% average return for developed markets. 

Don't miss your chance this time

A recent U.N. conference had good reason to rank Vietnam as the sixth most desirable place to invest. Simply put, frontier markets offer untapped potential to informed investors. 

That's why our Motley Fool Global Gains team is headed to some of these markets (Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore, as well as China) in a few weeks for a firsthand look at the growth opportunities in these regions.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Study finds widening salary gap in Indonesia

Mariani Dewi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 05/17/2008 11:16 AM

The gap in salaries between managers and clerics in Indonesia widened last year from 2006 in part because of a shortage in talent amid the country's growing economy, a global study says.

The finding, released by global consulting company Hay Group, takes into account compensations and benefits of 12 million employees in 61 countries, including 71,000 employees in Indonesia working in large multinational and local firms.

The disparity rate rose from 8.7 percent in 2006 to 9.1 percent last year, placing Indonesia's rate 8th highest out of 11 countries. The study shows the gap is widest in telecommunications and banking industries -- both fast growing sectors in Indonesia.

Michelle Low, the company's regional marketing manager in Singapore, told The Jakarta Post on Friday the gap was mainly driven by a lack of skilled labor to support the country's high economic growth.

"It is not that Indonesian managers demand high salaries, but companies competing with each other for a limited pool of experienced and skilled managers have driven up their salaries," Low said.

"As more companies in Indonesia adopt a pay-for-performance approach, the situation is becoming more balanced. Companies are able now to better measure their ROI (return on investment) for their salary budgets, while managers know what they are being paid to achieve."

Worldwide, the study finds that the larger the population of well-educated and highly trained workforce, the smaller the disparity in salaries.

In Singapore, salaries tend to start low but employees can see up to 24 percent pay rises within the first two year for high productivity and good performance, the report says.

Malaysia and Singapore performed better, with disparity percentages of 6 and 4.7, respectively.

China tops the list, with Thailand and Vietnam behind, although the economies in those countries have grown faster than that in Indonesia.

The U.S. saw its disparity grow 20 percent, although its figure remains low, ranging from 3.1 to 3.7 percent.

"Positions at this level are one step away from the executive suite, and companies are looking to fill them with high-caliber candidates who can then progress into more senior roles," said Tom McMulley of Hay Group U.S.

"However, if U.S. recessionary fears are realized, we may see the gap stabilize or even decrease. Our experience is that it's this level that gets hardest hit in recessionary markets, as companies reduce staff and curtail hiring plans, reducing competition for these candidates.

"At the same time, clerical level roles have tended to continue to increase at a steady rate, in line with the cost of living," Low said, adding that salary was not always the main attraction.

"Like employees around the world, Indonesians are willing to trade some salary for intangible factors like conducive a environment, interesting projects and a good manager.

"Hay Group's research with Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies in 2008 showed the most admired companies were able to pay slightly less than the market rate to attract and retain employees."


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Indonesian economy grows 6.28 pct in first quarter: official

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian economy grew 6.28 percent in the first quarter compared with a year ago, driven by exports and investment, an official said Thursday.

Exports grew 15.03 percent in the first three months of the calendar year while investment surged 13.3 percent compared to the same time last year, Central Bureau of Statistics deputy chairman Slamet Sutomo was quoted by AFP as saying.

The share of investment in GDP increased to 25.34 percent from 23.8 percent in the first quarter of 2007, he said. Private consumption rose 5.5 percent.

The economy grew 2.15 percent over the last quarter of 2007 thanks to a 5.68-percent surge in exports.

Higher food prices pushed down private consumption by 0.45 percent from the previous quarter. Government consumption meanwhile plummeted 30.45 percent and investment shrank by 0.64 percent.

The GDP data was within analysts' expectations.


SBY approves cash aid for poor

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 05/15/2008 1:21 AM

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has issued a presidential instruction for the disbursement of Rp 14.1 trillion (US$1.55 billion) in direct cash assistance to help 19.1 million lower income households cope with planned fuel price increases.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said late Wednesday after a Cabinet meeting the presidential instruction would serve as the legal basis for the cash disbursement program, expected to be launched in June when the government plans to raise fuel prices.

"The first phase of the program will cover a period of seven months until December. We are now printing the cash disbursement cards to be distributed across the country. We'll be ready by the third week of the month," Aburizal said.

Under the scheme, households that qualify will receive Rp 100,000 per month in compensation for the maximum 30 percent increase in fuel prices, he said.

The second phase of the program is expected to last until December next year.

Aburizal said that according to government data, the 19.1 million households that qualify for the program comprise 76.4 million people.

Paskah Suzetta, chairman of the National Development Planning Board, said the President has instructed the attorney general, Indonesian Military chief, National Police chief, governors, regents and mayors to ensure the money reached qualified households.

He warned that legal action would be taken against any officials found to be hindering the flow of funds to rightful recipients.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the government would propose the inclusion of funds for the cash disbursement program in the 2009 state budget.

"We can make sure that poor families get compensation through December 2009," she said.

The government plans to raise fuel prices to cap fuel subsidies and protect the state budget in the face of soaring global crude oil prices.

It is preparing a number of programs, including direct cash disbursements, to help lower income households cope with the higher prices.

The government has launched a Rp 13.2 trillion credit program in 4,000 districts across the country, and has extended Rp 5.3 trillion in credits to approximately 400,000 micro and small businesses.

With these programs, the government hopes to cut the poverty rate from 14 percent in 2008 to 12.5 percent in 2009.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RI`s first lady gets UN Award for Promoting Tree Planting Movement

New York (ANTARA News) - Indonesian First Lady Ani Yudhoyono got an award from the United Nations for promoting the planting of millions of trees in Indonesia as part of the Billion Tree Planting Campaign spearheaded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agro-forestry Center (ICRAF).

In addition to the First Lady, UNEP also awarded the Indonesian forestry minister for supporting the global tree planting activities

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner presented certificates of appreciation called "Certificate of Global Leadership" to the First Lady and the forestry minister, who were represented by Dana Kartakusuma, Staff Expert of the Environmental Affairs Minister, at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

"The award from UNEP is encouragement for Indonesia to work harder and intensify tree planting activities to prevent natural disasters such as floods, erosion, and landslides which often hit the country," Dana told ANTARA News.

Indonesia has at least planted 86 million trees as part of the global campaign to fight climate change.

The Billion Tree Planting Campaign, a unique worldwide tree planting initiative, aimed at empowering citizens to corporations and people up to presidents to embrace the climate change challenge, has now set its sights on planting seven billion trees.

UNEP reported that the Billion Tree Campaign has in just 18 months catalyzed the planting of two billion trees, double its original target.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said "When the Billion Tree Campaign was launched at the Climate Convention meeting in Nairobi in 2006, no one could have imagined it could have flowered so fast and so far. But it has given expression to the frustrations but also the hopes of millions of people around the world".

"Having exceeded every target that has been set for the campaign, we are now calling on individuals, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments to evolve this initiative onto a new and even higher level by the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen in late 2009," he said.

"In 2006 we wondered if a billion tree target was too ambitious; it was not. The goal of two billion trees has also proven to be an underestimate. The goal of planting seven billion trees - equivalent to just over a tree per person alive on the planet `must therefore also be do-able given the campaign`s extraordinary track record and the self-evident worldwide support," he added.

The Billion Tree Campaign has become a practical expression of private and public concern over global warming.

Heads of state including the presidents of Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico, Turkey and Turkmenistan as well as businesses; cities; faith, youth and community groups have enthusiastically taken part. Individuals have accounted for over half of all participants.


Monday, May 12, 2008

SBY to issue new economic package

Rendi Akhmad Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 05/12/2008 6:46 AM

The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is slated to issue its last package of economic policies later this month to help expedite private investment and spur economic growth ahead of next year's elections.

A copy of the draft package, titled Focus of Economic Programs 2008-2009", obtained recently by The Jakarta Post from the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy consists of a series of planned regulations and actions by the economic ministers.

"It will be a kind of guidance for ministers until the end of 2009 .... I cannot say about the timing of its issuance as the President is still reviewing it," outgoing Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono told the Post recently.

An official with Boediono's office said the package had been scheduled to be issued this week, but because the government planned to raise fuel prices it would likely be delayed.

"The package is on the President's table now. He may change or put in some additional points to help cushion the impact of the fuel price increases," said the official.

According to the package, the economic team will focus in the remaining 16 months before next year's general election on improving the investment climate and stabilizing the macro-economy and financial institutions.

Improving the management of the country's natural resources, environment, and agriculture sector, empowering small and medium enterprises, and reforming the labor and transmigration sectors are other key policies.

The package also addresses energy supply, upgrading infrastructure and speeding up the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

Among the key issues in the economic package is a revision of government decree No. 1/2007 on income tax facilities for investment in certain sectors and regions.

Investors have yet to enjoy the privileges outlined in the decree due to different legal interpretations between the tax office and the Investment Coordinating Board, which pledged the facilities.

Under the decree, investors are meant to be given a 30 percent income tax reduction for a period of six years. At present, there are more than 17 firms with a total investment of US$7 billion waiting for the decree to be implemented.

Another important issue in the package is a revision of a cost recovery scheme for oil and gas producers, as well as transparency in the revenue and management of the energy and the mining sectors.

The government has been under public pressure over the contracts and facilities given to private energy and mining firms, which are seen as lacking transparency and being riddled with questionable transactions.

Senior officials from the Finance Ministry have demanded the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry strictly supervise the energy and mining sectors to maximize state revenue to finance development.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Mohamad Suleman Hidayat expressed doubt over the effectiveness of the planned economic policy package.

"Businesses are skeptical about the implementation of the policies. The previous economic packages have run aground because of bureaucratic problems. All of the business problems in this country stem primarily from bureaucrats," he said.

President Yudhoyono has issued more than five economic packages to help lure foreign investment and spur growth.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, has trimmed its economic growth target to around 6 percent this year from an initial forecast of 6.4 percent due primarily to accelerating inflation from skyrocketing global commodity prices.

Eyebox Key policies in the draft package

Draft laws: 1. Special economic zones 2. Financial safety net 3. Pawn services (liberalization) 4. Credit management 

Presidential decrees and government regulations: 1. Integrated investment license processing 2. Railway infrastructure 

Ministerial decrees: 1. Immigration privileges for foreign-direct investment 2. Acceleration of import process for capital goods and raw materials for foreign-direct investment 3. Fiscal incentives for foreign-direct investment 4. Facility expansion for tax rebates 6. Synchronization of logistic services 7. Revision of decree on pension fund investments 8. Gas retail prices 9. Revision of regulations on upstream oil and gas sector 10. Electricity retail prices from geothermal power plants 11. Food estates 12. Trade facilitation and tariff exemption within the ASEAN integration frame 13. Liberalization of air freight services within ASEAN 14. Labor dispute settlement through third parties 

Action plans: 1. Highway expansion to Tanjung Priok Port 2. Accelerating the implementation of the National Single Window for improving export and import procedures 3. Completing financial system architecture 4. Completing early warning system for financial stability 5. Regrouping of state firms, from 139 to 87 firms 6. Privatization of 44 firms by 2009 7. Securing coal supply for 10,000 MW power projects


Saturday, May 10, 2008

UN wants RI to lead Myanmar relief efforts

The Jakarta Post, Abdul Khalik and Lilian Budianto 

With the United States and other Western countries denied access to cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, the UN is asking Indonesia to take the lead in the region to help the reclusive country cope with the disaster. 

Indonesia could draw on its experience with the 2004 tsunami in Aceh to help Myanmar handle the disaster, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) executive director Noeleen Heyzer said. 

"Indonesia did amazing work in responding to the tsunami in Aceh and has become a leader in effective natural disaster response. Therefore, I would like ESCAP to facilitate a strong Indonesian role in Myanmar," she told The Jakarta Post on Friday. 

About 150,000 people were killed when an earthquake-caused tsunami struck Aceh and Nias in December 2004. 

The cyclone that swept through Myanmar last weekend has left more than 100,000 dead, according to local and foreign observers in the military-run country. 

Heyzer, who is also a UN under-secretary-general, said Myanmar needed considerable advice on coordinating a response the way Indonesia did for the tsunami. 

"The tsunami was a dreadful disaster, but there was no further disaster from the spread of disease. People had water and food, and a good health system and sanitation. And there was a coordinated response of foreign aid from across the world," she said. 

Heyzer said she was seeking to bring Indonesia and ASEAN on board to work together with ESCAP in a regional cooperation framework to push the Myanmar junta to allow in more foreign aid. 

"I am preparing to go to Myanmar to show my sympathy at this time and hopefully to talk with leaders there. I think it's time to bring in friends to provide the quickest and the most effective response for the people of Myanmar in this particular situation," she said. 

Indonesia sent Myanmar relief aid Thursday worth US$1 million. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sent a letter to Myanmar military junta leader Sr. Gen. Tan Shwe to convey his and Indonesia's condolences and sympathy over the cyclone. 

Presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said Yudhoyono's letter shared Indonesia's experiences in handling the tsunami. 

Presidential advisor on foreign policy Ali Alatas told the Post the letter also discussed Indonesia's experiences in managing foreign aid. 

A military and international relations expert with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Kusnanto Anggoro, similarly urged Indonesia to use its good relationship with Myanmar to persuade the country to receive immediate international aid to avoid making the humanitarian disaster worse. 

"This is a golden opportunity for Indonesia to play a greater role in Myanmar by forming a bridge between the West and the military junta, and to show them how Indonesia received foreign aid without compromising its sovereignty," he told the Post. 

As of Friday, the military junta was still rejecting relief aid from the United States and European countries and was refusing to grant visas to Western humanitarian workers. 

The United States and France have threatened to use force to intervene in the reclusive country for humanitarian reasons.


Related Articles:

RI sends aid to Myanmar, sealed with SBY letter

UN says Myanmar's refusal to grant visas is unprecedented in modern relief history

Cyclone deaths 'may top 100,000'

Cyclone redraws Myanmar coastline

RI to provide $1 million in relief aid to Myanmar

Images of Aceh Earthquake 9.2 /Tsunami Disaster December 2004


RI sends aid to Myanmar, sealed with SBY letter

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 05/09/2008 12:28 AM

Indonesian relief aid is expected to arrive in Yangon on Friday with a letter from the President to the Myanmar military junta leader conveying his condolences and solidarity.

Two Hercules planes carrying the humanitarian aid, comprising food, medicine and tents, left Jakarta on Thursday afternoon for a stopover in Medan before plans to fly to Yangon, the capital of cyclone-stricken Myanmar, on Friday morning.

"Beside expressing condolences for those perished, the President shared Indonesia's experience in dealing with disaster in his letter to Sr. Gen. Tan Shwe," presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

A major earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Aceh and Nias in December 2004, just two months after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was inaugurated. About 150,000 people were killed in the disaster.

A cyclone swept through Myanmar last weekend, leaving more than 23,000 dead according to state media, but some officials and nongovernmental organizations in the military-ruled country have said there may be more than 100,000 deaths in the delta area of the country.

Dino said quick approval for Indonesia's aid to enter Myanmar was evidence of the country's trust in Indonesia.

While directly pushing Myanmar to admit international disaster relief, the United States has asked Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, India, China and others to use "any leverage" they may have with Myanmar to allow relief teams into the country, AFP reported.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan also urged Myanmar's military junta to quickly allow international aid into the country.

"I hope we will have an opening before it's too late," Surin said in Jakarta. "It's very much a matter of urgency."

Myanmar is a member of the regional grouping.

The military junta, however, has denied entry to seven Indonesian journalists seeking to cover the hand-over of the humanitarian aid in Yangon, citing security concerns.

Antara news agency reported the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta canceled its visa for an AFP photojournalist and stopped processing the visas for six other reporters as the military junta could not guarantee their safety.

The Office of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, which is organizing the delivery of the aid, listed reporters from Antara, AFP and Reuters news agencies, Kompas daily and TVOne private TV station and state station TVRI as part of the humanitarian team to Yangon.


Related Story:

Images of Aceh Earthquake 9.2 /Tsunami Disaster December 2004



President to hold dialog with farmers in W. Sulawesi

Makassar, South Sulwesi (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to visit Mamuju, provincial capital of West Sulawesi, on Monday and Tuesday for a dialog with the local people, West Sulawesi Governor H Anwar Adnan Saleh said.

"About 5,000 rice and plantation farmers as well as fishermen from five districts in West Sulawesi will attend the dialog with the president," the governor said here on Friday.

Anwar said that in West Sulawesi, the president will give a motivation and briefing to local administration officials and people in view of problems in the run-up to the central government`s plan to raise fuel oil prices.

The president, who during the visit would be accompanied by Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Aburizal Bakrie and a number of cabinet ministers, will hand over assistance to the local people.

The assistance under the national people`s empowerment program, amounts to several billions of rupiah.

"The funds will be very useful to reduce the impact of the fuel oil price hike because the local people could use them according to their priorities," the West Sulawesi governor said.

Anwar said that the number of poor people in his province was relatively high, reaching about 19 percen of its population of 1.1 million.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Minahasa regency ahead of others in education

Hyginus Hardoyo, The Jakarta Post, Tondano | Mon, 05/05/2008 11:25 AM 

Amid worsening education standards in the country, Minahasa is continuing to show support by offering free education to elementary and high school students. It is one of only a few regencies in the country that do so. 

Minahasa Regent S. Vreeke Runtu said the provision of free education was intended to regain the good old days that pioneers like Sam Ratulangi, Maria Walanda Maramis to Lambertus Nicodemus Palar brought to the regency.


The pioneers had taken part in the establishment of the republic. They helped promote the name of Minahasa both at the national and even international level. 

However, the Minahasa reputation is quickly waning as the regency sees fewer major achievements. 

"We want to regain our name. The key is education," said Vreeke, who was installed by North Sulawesi Governor Sinyo Sarundayang as regent in March after being reelected for a second term. 

"Education is vital to help boost economic development in Minahasa regency, which has so far relied heavily on agriculture," the regent said. 

Vreeke said free education, provided for students of both state and privately-run schools, was introduced to the Minahasa regency three years ago. 

In line with the provision of free education, Vreeke has also relieved residents of all costs for health services at community health centers. 

To support such a policy, the regent administration earmarked up to Rp 32 billion (US$3.55 million) for education and health services out of a total budget of Rp 492 billion this year, Vreeke said. 

Locally generated incomes reached only Rp 16 billion in 2007 and is projected to increase to Rp 18 billion this year, he said. 

The policy may seem unimportant to wealthier regencies like Musi Banyuasin and Kutai Kartanegara, which have abundant oil resources, and Jembrana, which profits from tourism. But it means something for a poor regency like Minahasa and its residents. 

Vreeke has also provided scholarships to 20 Minahasa students to pursue their doctorate degrees overseas, including France, Germany, Britain, Canada, Australia and Japan.  

"Each student is allocated Rp 300 million for their tuition without having to return the funds," Vreeke said. 

"I'm convinced that when the students finish their education, they will not forget their homeland, wherever they work and live," he said. 

"Before their departure, I asked them to accept my invitation after finishing their tuition to help me with the regency. 

"All I need is their ideas on how to boost development in this regency. Just imagine 20 experts from various disciplines in a meeting to discuss a number of ways to improve of the regency." 

Vreeke is confident his decision to spend on education will bear fruit in the future. 

"It's possible I won't be able to realize my goals, but this is mostly for the sake of future generations," he said. 

In addition, Vreeke introduced a favorable program providing funding assistance of up to Rp 1 million for the families of every Minahasa resident who passes away. 

The provision, given to both the rich and poor, is intended to help family members of the deceased, he said. The program was initially intended only for poor people, but since it was difficult to set criteria, it is given to all Minahasa people. 

Vreeke's policy has apparently pleased local residents, who in turn did not hesitate to reelect him as the new regent, despite aggressive campaigning involving money and other promises by rival parties.


Gates offers free software to Indonesian students

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 05/09/2008 12:28 PM

During a meeting here with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Gates, one of the world's richest men, expressed his commitment to supporting the government's efforts to improve education quality by providing Internet-based national education. 

"He (Gates) told the President that Microsoft will continue to train teachers and students throughout Indonesia in software, computer and information and communication technology," Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie told a press briefing after the meeting.



GATE TO HIGH TECH: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (right) meets with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in Jakarta on Thursday. During his two-day visit, Gates is scheduled to attend the Asian Government Leaders Forum 2008 and to speak at a presidential lecture in Jakarta on Friday. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

 

Yudhoyono told Gates that Indonesia and Microsoft should continue to work together as the cooperation would mutually benefit both parties. 

The government is seeking to obtain software from Microsoft for a million computers for educational purposes in an effort to cut the ratio of computers to students from the current 1:1000 to 1:20, Aburizal said. 

Gates said he was ready to help Indonesia get high-quality personal computers for a price of less than US$200 per unit, plus free software if Indonesia could make a deal with Intel chairman Craig Barrett, who will meet Yudhoyono in Jakarta next week. 

"We will make a deal with Barrett to acquire cheap or even free processors for the computers to be distributed to the students. As a result, we will get a much lower price than $200," minister of communication and information Muhammad Nuh said.

He expressed optimism that Indonesia could strike a deal with Barrett, who is known as a leading advocate for education improvement in the United States and around the world, and a vocal spokesman for the value of technology. 

Gates also praised Indonesia's progress in fighting software piracy, pointing to fact the country had moved out from a priority ranking on a world piracy watch list. 

"Gates' visit shows that he trusts we are making progress in fighting piracy. We are now checking government offices and big businesses to make sure they don't use pirated software. We want to get out from the watch list as soon as possible," Nuh said. 

Indonesia ranks as the fourth-worst offender of software piracy in the Asia Pacific after Vietnam, Pakistan and China. 

Gates also expressed commitment to expanding the Microsoft Innovation Center program, which now runs at the University of Indonesia, the Bandung Institute of Technology, Gadjah Mada University and the Surabaya Institute of Technology. The center helps students conduct research in the information technology field. 

Gates is in Indonesia as a key speaker at the presidential lecture to be held as part of Microsoft's annual Government Leadership Forum, which started Thursday. He will address about 1,500 government officials and business representatives and 1,000 students on Friday.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Freedoms down, government efficiency up in reform era: Survey

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 05/06/2008 12:35 AM

A survey conducted to commemorate a decade of Indonesia's reform movement has concluded an overall decline in the freedom of religion and speech but an increase in governance performance.

The survey, released Monday by democracy and human rights research center Demos, was conducted in 2007 among 900 social, political and democracy activists throughout the nation.

Besides freedom of religion, belief, language, culture and speech, assembly and organization, most freedoms have been curtailed, the survey said.

It said other aspects of democracy were also constrained, such as the freedom of the press, freedom to establish trade unions, freedom to form parties, citizens' participation in independent civil associations, public access to information and participation in public life.

Improvements were seen in the rights to basic education, the rights of children, the freedom from physical violence, government support of international law and human rights, employment rights and basic needs, equality before the law and the subordination of the government and public officials to the rule of law.

Other high points included the transparency and accountability of the elected government, the government's independence from strong interest groups, good corporate governance, independence from money politics and the government's increased capability to combat paramilitary and criminal activities.

Demos deputy director Willy P. Samadhi said Indonesians in general had lost some rights but their government had improved.

He said he was concerned, though, the current situation might lead Indonesia back into the oppression experienced under Soeharto's authoritarian New Order regime.

"The government has indeed improved its quality in terms of efforts to eradicate corruption and to enhance education facilities.

"However, the limitations on the freedom of speech, assembly and organization have set a bad precedent for the country's future," he said.

Willy said that since Demos' first survey in 2004, Indonesia's democracy had shifted toward oligarchy, with only the powerful having the right to govern.

"The chance to run for election is open only to those who have links to power or money. That means Indonesia still faces a monopoly in terms of representing the citizenry," he said. (nkn)


Survey: Yudhoyono remains favorite

United Press International, Published: May 6, 2008 at 7:17 AM

JAKARTA, May 6 (UPI) -- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono remains the favorite for next year's presidential poll, a public opinion survey indicated.

Yudhoyono's popularity remains strong despite criticism of his administration's economic record, The Jakarta Post reported.

The survey by the Indonesian Research and Development Institute said about 45 percent of the respondents said they view the president as a strong figure who can solve urgent problems, Hasan Nasbi, the institute's coordinator for external research, told the Post.

One political expert was quoted as saying Yudhoyono's popularity would decline after he announces an increase in fuel prices in response to the rising oil prices.

The survey said 57 percent of the respondents said they are unhappy with economic performance under Yudhoyono's leadership.

The survey interviewed 2,600 people across the country March 22-30. About 80 percent of them live in villages and 90 percent of them earn less than $163 a month, the newspaper said.

The survey said most respondents said they believe Yudhoyono is better able to fix Indonesia's weakening economy than other potential candidates, including former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

One expert said the survey results would be different if the respondents were from well-educated backgrounds.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Asian nations form $80B emergency pool

CNN 

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- A group of Asian nations have agreed to create a pool of at least US$80 billion (worth about euro52 billion) for addressing short-term liquidity difficulties. 

Finance ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Three -- Japan, South Korea and China -- said in a statement Sunday that the region faces risks amid turmoil in international foreign exchange markets as well as oil and commodity price spikes. 

ASEAN countries will contribute 20 percent of the amount, while Japan, South Korea and China will put up the rest, the ministers said. 

The group released the statement during the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in Madrid. It said the agreement on pooling currency had resulted from talks on expanding the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative, by which Asian nations have set up bilateral contracts to supply funds through currency swap lines. 

The announcement of a pool came as the bank also said it had created emergency funding to help poor countries struggling with soaring food prices and warned these could keep rising and stifle economic growth in the region. 

"The cheap food era may be over," the bank's President Haruhiko Kuroda told a news conference Saturday in Madrid , where the bank was holding its annual meeting. 

The new aid will come in the form of soft loans for the governments of countries hardest hit by the global food crisis, such as Bangladesh. 

Kuroda declined to give an overall figure for this expenditure, saying it would depend on requests governments make. He said the amount would be "sizable, but not enormous." 

Asia is home to two-thirds of the world's poor, and nearly 1.7 billion people in the region live on US$2 (euro1.30) a day or less. Asia's poor are particularly vulnerable to rising prices for staples such as rice because 60 percent of their spending goes toward food, and the figure rises to 75 percent if fuel costs are included, the bank said. 

Kuroda said prices of rice, for instance, have nearly tripled in the past four months. 

Higher food costs mean higher inflation, which will reduce consumption, savings and investment. And if governments raise interest rates to control inflation, this could reduce demand and trigger an economic slowdown, the ADB said in a report. 

It estimated a food price shock of 50 percent could cut real growth in Asian gross domestic product by 1.05 percentage points in 2008 and lower growth in 2009 as well. 

Many countries in the region are grappling with the crisis by imposing price controls or bans on food exports, but the bank says this can backfire by discouraging farmers from planting, thus reducing supplies and raising prices. 

Food-specific aid is a better idea, Kuroda said. 

"We believe targeted interventions to protect food entitlements of the most vulnerable and poor are more effective to mitigate the immediate impact of rising food prices," he said. 

He also said the bank does not like Thailand's idea of creating a rice-exporting cartel along the lines of OPEC, saying it is better to let market forces operate freely. 

The Manila-based bank was created in 1966 to fight poverty in the Asia-Pacific region, and every other year holds its annual meeting in one of its 19 member countries that are outside the region. This year it picked Spain, which joined in 1986. 

Soaring prices for staples have been stoked by higher fuel costs, unpredictable weather and greater demand from emerging powerhouses such as India and China. 

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush responded to the world's rising food prices by asking Congress to approve US$770 million (euro500 million) in new global food aid for the coming fiscal year. 

The bank says that while stocks of rice are the lowest they have been in a decade, the real problem is one of prices: the ability of poor people to buy food. 

At this meeting, the bank will discuss how governments can help these people, including measures such as targeted aid, and over the long term with greater investment in agriculture and infrastructure like irrigation systems to increase production. 

The bank wants developed countries to stop paying subsidies for production of biofuels, saying it makes staples more expensive. 

The meeting of the bank's board begins in earnest on Monday and will bring together about 3,000 delegates, including finance ministers, academics and members of other multilateral development agencies. 

Asia has been experiencing torrid economic expansion -- 8.7 percent last year -- and the bank forecasts it at a still-robust 7.6 percent in 2008, excluding Japan, despite slowdowns in the United States and elsewhere. 

But for Asia, this has come with inflation now running at 5.1 percent -- the highest in a decade -- and disregard for the environment amid go-go development and industrialization.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Capital flows will return to Asia once credit crunch ends - ADB official

Madrid (ANTARA News) - Once the global credit crunch eases Asia will see the return of the large capital inflows which put the squeeze on their economies, a senior Asian Development Bank (ADB) official said on Saturday.

"We can expect massive capital inflows into Asia once financial stability is restored," Masahiro Kawai, the bank's head of regional economic integration, was quoted by Thomson Financial as saying at the ADB's annual meeting in the Spanish capital Madrid.

Global financial markets were still in the middle of the credit crunch that emerged from the U.S. subprime crisis but confidence will be restored in six to 12 months, he said.

"And then where will they invest? Maybe not in the U.S. because we expect the U.S. economy to continue to stagnate for several quarters ... it will be in Asia," said Kawai, a special advisor to the ADB's president.

While the return of capital flows would help Asian nations finance investment, Kawai warned that "this may not be all good" as it also could erode competitiveness.

Before the start of the credit crunch, many Asian nations saw their currencies rise as low interest rates in countries such as Japan and Switzerland encouraged investors to borrow cheaply there to invest in fast-growing developing economies.

Regional currencies such as the Thai baht, Indonesian rupiah, Singaporean dollar and Philippine peso have all appreciated sharply against the dollar recently, making life tougher for exporters in the region.

The issue dominated the ADB's last annual meeting held in Japan in May 2007, with the president of the Manila-based lender, Haruhiko Kuroda, calling on Asian nations to step up their financial cooperation to cope with the large capital inflows.


India urged to copy China at Asian Development Bank meeting

Madrid (ANTARA News) - India must boost infrastructure spending and reform its labour market as China has done if it wants its economy to grow as fast as that of its Asian neighbour, participants at the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in Spain said Saturday.

"The Chinese manufacturing success story has a lot to do with a physical infrastructure that is better," said economist Bibek Debroy, who has studied both economies, of New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research.

In 2005 Indian spending on infrastructure was equivalent to 5.9 percent of its gross domestic product compared to 14.6 percent for China, according to India's Infrastructure Development Finance Co. chief executive Rajiv Lall.

But just over half of the funding for China's infrastructure projects came from state-owned enterprises, a model which he said could not be copied by India, he added.

"China has very peculiar and unorthodox institutional arrangement," he was quoted by AFP as saying.

Debroy said China has also benefited from reforms of its labour market carried out in the mid-1990s which allowed for the greater use of contract workers.

"China has a very flexible labour market, India's labour market is very rigid," said Debroy who prepared a study comparing China and India's labour markets for the ADB.

"Labour market reforms in India are very often talked about but are rarely implemented," he added.

China's economy grew 11.9 percent in 2007 compared to growth of 9.4 percent for India that year, according to Standard & Poor's.

While India attracted a record 24.6 billion dollars in foreign direct investment in the fiscal year to March 31, China captured 74.7 billion dollars of foreign investment in 2007.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

High crude prices help boost RI`s exports in Q1

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Central Board of Statistics (BPS) said Indonesia`s exports in the first quarter of 2008 increased 31.34 percent which was attributable to the upward trend of world crude prices since early this year.

"Actually, the oil and gas exports had been increasing most rapidly as they were directly linked with world oil prices which continued to go up," BPS Head Rusman Heriawan said here on Friday.

He said that from the export aspect there was a windfall in the gas and oil sectors but because Indonesia`s gas and oil imports were higher than its exports, it caused a lot of problems with the state budget.

The BPS also recorded a 41.70 percent increase in agricultural product exports in the first quarter of 2008. Industrial product exports also increased 30.48 percent from 10.02 percent in the same period a year earlier.

"Indonesia`s natural resource-based exports will continue to increase as long as the oil price also continue to go up," he said.

Indonesia`s exports in March 2008 were worth US$11.90 billion. It rose 12.96 percent from the previous month and compared with March in the previous year it rose 31.24 percent.

Non oil exports in March 2008 were estimated at 9.14 billion dollars, up 12.09 percent compared with those in February 2008, or an increase of 21.99 percent if compared with that in March in the previous year.

The BPS chairman said Indonesia`s non oil exports in the first quarter were dominated by crude palm oil (CPO) which rose 47 percent compared with the same period in the previous year.

He said that Indonesia`s imports in March were worth US$10.01, up 3.96 percent from that in February.

Indonesia`s non oil and gas exports in March were US$7.60 billion (75.92 percent,) and oil and gas imports US$2.41 billion (24.08 percent).

The total value of the country`s imports in the first quarter of this year was US$29.24 billion with machinery and electrical appliances being the biggest ones worth US$3.29 billion or 14.70 percent of the total imports.