Thomas White Global Investing
Indonesia Stamp
June 18, 2010
A Postcard from Asia Pacific
Indonesia: Remarkable Indonesia Powers Ahead

View of Jakarta city at night

The Central Bank of Indonesia has kept its key interest rate unchanged at 6.50% since August last year to support growth.

Even as Europe quakes under the fear of a double-dip recession, economists around the world are looking to emerging markets in Asia for a revival in the global economy. India and China are often the most-touted nations expected to lead the turnaround. But there is a hidden gem in Asia that may well surprise investors and economists alike.

Indonesia’s often tumultuous past belies the sort of promise it has for the future. Despite all the buzz about Asia, Indonesia has, for some reason, always been in the background. But not anymore. Brand Indonesia is here with a bang.

Similar to India’s extraordinarily popular ‘Incredible India’ campaign, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is promoting what it hopes will be the new catchphrase among investors: Remarkable Indonesia. This effort to rebrand Indonesia is something that the country needs at this time. Over the past decade, the country has inched ahead toward political stability, and has labored to rebuild itself from the devastation caused by the tsunami in 2004.

A member of the G-20 league of major economies, Indonesia is also considered a part of the Next Eleven (N-11) group of economies that Goldman Sachs believes may become one of the biggest economies in the world in the 21st century. Indonesia registered an impressive 5.7% growth year-on-year in the first quarter of 2010, and real gross domestic product rose 4.5% for the whole of 2009. Political tension has always been an issue in Indonesia, but that appears to on the wane with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reelection to office for a second term in 2009.

The country’s credentials are impressive: a rising middle class, burgeoning demand, improving infrastructure, an upward climbing economic graph, and a stock market that skyrocketed 126.4% in 2009. These are the same fundamentals that are driving bigger countries like India and China towards economic superstardom. Yet somehow, Indonesia has not managed to be in the limelight quite as much as these two Asian giants.

It is precisely this imbalance that the Indonesian government is seeking to address with the branding effort, Remarkable Indonesia. Take for example the promotional event in Harrods in London recently, a month-long celebration of all things Indonesian, complete with Indonesian food and products. That was only one of many bids to entice tourists, an attempt to meet the country’s tourism target of seven million visitors in 2010.

The Incredible India campaign went on to become one of the most successful branding initiatives ever, with ads from that effort winning awards the world over. Remarkable Indonesia has some way to go to match those lofty heights. But there is no doubt that Indonesia is indeed remarkable. It just has to be re-discovered.

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