Indonesia is at the end of a commodities boom and in the midst of a cyclical downturn, but brave investors who venture in will "reap great profit", Indonesian President Joko Widodo said yesterday.
Mr Joko told those gathered at the Singapore-Indonesia business dialogue in Shangri-La Hotel:
"Today, we are once again confronting challenging times in Indonesia... The world looks full of uncertainty and risk.
"What does it all mean? It means that today is the time to invest - the best time to invest."
He urged the more than 150 business leaders at the event - organised by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Singapore Business Federation - to "invest early" in Asean's largest economy, where "a new economic cycle is beginning".
The President added: "The boom of commodities has come to an end. The boom of emerging markets has come to an end.
"But the social media revolution has begun. The smartphone revolution has begun. Around the world, around the region, and yes - also in Indonesia."
Mr Joko, 54, recalled that when the Asian financial crisis plunged Indonesia into a terrible crisis in 1997, many brave investors - Singaporeans among them - stayed invested.
"Today, those investors have made really huge profits," he said.
In an interview with The Straits Times ahead of his state visit to Singapore, Mr Joko challenged the market consensus when he said that the Indonesian economy could grow more than 5 per cent in this half of the year.
Indonesia's first-quarter growth of 4.7 per cent was the slowest in six years. The coal, natural gas and palm oil-exporting archipelago has been restricted by a slowdown in China.
But Mr Joko remains bullish: "Our economy will double in size. It may take only 10 years, it may take 15 years - it is difficult to predict but I am absolutely sure it will double."
Mr Joko opened the dialogue yesterday with a 17-minute pitch to Singapore businesses to be part of his country's growth story. He emphasised his seriousness in making infrastructure building the hallmark of his term in office.
Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, said that Singapore businesses are keen to contribute to Indonesia's infrastructure development.
"We understand an infrastructure task force will soon be set up in Indonesia to bypass regulations which might hamper infrastructure development projects," said Mr Iswaran. "These initiatives are important. If coupled with a stable and transparent business environment for companies, and a consistent message that foreign investments are welcome, they will create a conducive investment and business climate."
Yesterday marked Mr Joko's first official visit to Singapore, but not his first. He told the gathering to applause: "As you know, two of my children went to school in Singapore. My family and I like Singapore. We respect Singapore. We admire Singapore."
This article was first published on July 29, 2015.
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