Election outcome presents new opportunities for business, webinar hears

Man in suit standing in front of microphone and lectern

A focus on mining projects and infrastructure are likely outcomes of a Prabowo Subianto presidency, an Australia-Indonesia Business Council (AIBC) webinar has heard.

The webinar also heard that Prabowo, who has a strong lead in the vote count, might surprise with his environmental sensitivity and support for green tourism, as well as a nuanced foreign policy in the Middle East.

The speakers were Bambang Harymurti (commissioner of PT Tempo), Kevin Evans (Indonesia director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre) and Budy Resosudarmo (professor of Economics and the Head of the ANU Indonesia Project at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU).

AIBC national president Jennifer Mathews acted as moderator.

A key message was that it would be business as usual for commerce, albeit there were a number of questions and uncertainties in terms of the new President’s political outlook.

Mr Resosudarmo said the new president was likely to continue to focus on new infrastructure as well as continuing with mining projects for commodities such as nickel.

He said increasing government revenue would be a priority for Prabowo as he sought to support projects such as free lunches for school children.

To this end he said Prabowo would be open to foreign investment as well as looking to send Indonesians abroad on university scholarships.

He also spoke of the new president supporting the development of a tourism belt from Lombok to East Timor and that he might be “less patient” with infrastructure delays.

The Indonesia director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre, Kevin Evans, talked of the election outcome resulting in “the smoothest presidential transition” and the new president’s focus on the lunch and milk program to overcome malnutrition.

He noted “wonderful opportunity” in terms of environmental projects and rehabilitating terrain.

However, he also noted Indonesia’s backward slide in a key ranking around transparency and issues of corruption that put it at risk of undoing the years of progress leading up to 2019.

This trend might come at a cost in terms of business partnerships, Kevin Evans said.

Mr Bambang told the gathering the new president could be a surprise regarding environmental policy under the influence of his brother who, while being business savvy, has also looked to support so-called ‘green projects’.

Prabowo’s brother opted not to use his right to cut down many of the trees on his Nusantara concession, preserving “good jungle” and contributing to a healthy supply of fresh water as well as forming the basis for an ecotourism operation.

He noted the new president was likely to be more visible on the world stage than Jokowi and comfortable in international diplomacy.

He is expected to seek friendship with both China and the West, albeit he was sufficiently anxious about the rise of China to participate in military exercises with the United States and its allies.

While the incumbent administration has indicated it plans to adhere to a “good neighbour policy”, it also plans to ensure its military strength with investments in military hardware such as helicopters and frigates.

Mr Bambang talked of the importance of the bilateral relationship and the so-called “good neighbour policy”, but with a caveat.

“Only a good neighbour if you are strong and don’t want to play around with you,” he said.

He said Prabowo had already planned for the acquisition of military hardware.

He said Prabowo wanted to be friends with both the West and China and would likely take a softer stance on AUKUS than the Foreign Ministry.

“He doesn’t want to go picking fights,” Bambang said.

Mr Bambang noted Prabowo’s friendship with the King of Jordan and how this was likely to influence his policy towards the Middle East.

The event also featured a short Q&A session, followed by a concluding statement from Australia-Indonesia Centre communications and outreach lead Helen Brown.

The official vote count for the 2024 Indonesian election is expected to be announced around the 20th of March.

Sign up to our twice-weekly Media Update