American Indonesian Chamber of Commerce

AMERICAN INDONESIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Update #57 March 29, 2021

In Memorium:
AICC mourns the passing of Rolf Benzian, a bright light in US-Indonesia commercial relations, at age 96. Rolf’s family fled Nazi Germany and after a period in Sweden he made his way to the United States where he founded and presided over Centerchem, a long-time AICC member and global supplier of unique functional products for use in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, food and fine chemical industries. In Indonesia, Rolf played an important role in establishing a state-owned firm, PT SIL, in the 1970’s, which processes quinine into various derivatives, marketed by Centerchem globally. Given his long experience in Indonesia and generous nature, Rolf helped several generations of AICC members develop new businesses with Indonesia through his mentorship. Rolf retired as Chairman of Centerchem and remained on AICC’s board of directors for several years.  He epitomized the ethical values on which AICC stands.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE #57 MARCH 29, 2021

Cumulative number of reported cases 1,501,093 (as of March 22)
Recovered: 1,336,818
Deaths: 40,581
Fatality Rate: 2.7% 

 Rupiah to US: $14,434
Jakarta Stock Exchange Index: 6166

Overview- Herd Immunity by Year-End

Covid-19 case detections remained virtually flat relative to last week, with the seven-day moving average (7DMA) at 5,517 on 25 March. Detections have been on a plateau for 10 days. The government states that 6.7 million Indonesians had received their first vaccine dose as of 25 March, with three million of those having received both doses. Thus, the total doses administered to date is 9.8 million. Daily jabs administered reached 630,000 on 25 March, a new record.  Indonesia has also begun receiving doses of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine arranged through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, however, shipments have been temporarily suspended from AZ’s factory in India as supplies are needed internally. Indonesia’s hopes to reach its goal is one million vaccinations daily by June and has enlisted children to help get there. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Thursday (03/25) he had set a goal to vaccinate 70% of Indonesians before the end of this year.

The Minister of Health announced a plan where any child will be eligible for vaccination if they bring two elderly people with them. He said: “because old people are hard to convince”. The respected polling firm Saiful Mujani did a face-to-face survey: 46% said they would get the vaccine, 29% said No, and 23% undecided. In past polls, not this one, among the highest polling reasons for not taking the vaccine was the cost of treatment for side-effects.

The government has banned the Idul Fitri tradition of mudik (exodus) for the second consecutive year to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has spiked after major public holidays in the past. This year, Idul Fitri will begin on May 12 or 13, depending on the sighting of the moon. Under normal circumstances, some 20 million people in Greater Jakarta travel to their hometowns during the holiday. Muhadjir said the ban would be in effect from May 6 to 17. Last year, the government had difficulty enforcing the ban.

Travel- Restrictions Remain

At the current time, the Indonesian government still prohibits foreign visitors from transiting and traveling to Indonesian Territory unless they are in possession of a valid residence permit. Visa-free and visa-on-arrival entry for all foreign travelers, including U.S. citizens, remains suspended. The government has not indicated a timeline for when the restrictions on international visitors will expire. Visit Indonesian Immigration (https://www.imigrasi.go.id) and the Indonesian Embassy (https://kemlu.go.id/washington/en) for updated visa and entry requirements as regulations may change frequently.

Economic-

  • Vaccination Key to Economic Recovery: In a recent speech former Finance Minister Chatib Basri said Indonesia lacked the discipline to implement social distancing and vaccination was the only wat forward for the nation’s economic recovery. Basri, said the primary engine of economic growth was consumption in the middle-to-upper income brackets, and the prolonged social distancing measures had adversely impacted those activities. “Private investment will happen if we have an economy of scale, and we only have economy of scale if mobility happens. This mobility can only happen with social distancing and vaccination,” “Social distancing can only happen effectively in places like China, in Wuhan, Singapore or Australia. As for us, we lack that discipline,” he said.
  • EV Battery Holding Company: Indonesia has established a government holding company for electric vehicle batteries. Given its position as one of the world’s largest nickel producers, a key battery component, Indonesia intends to build a substantial EV downstream industry. Under the agreement, state-owned oil giant Pertamina, electricity monopoly PLN, mining holding company MIND ID and nickel and gold miner PT Aneka Tambang (Antam) will each own 25 percent of IBC, an electric vehicle (EV) battery holding company. IBC plans to partner with other companies, most notably China’s CATL and South Korea’s LG Chem, the world’s top two EV battery producers, to establish several joint ventures to create an end-to-end EV battery supply chain in Indonesia.
  • Tariffs on Apparel and Garments: Indonesia has proposed a 20-50% on all imported clothing (any source) and has notified the WTO that the measures are compliant with its “Agreement on Safeguards”.  The policy is, according to industry sources, is aimed at “dumping” from China, especially women’s Islamic apparel.
  • $10 Billion for Sovereign Wealth Fund: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the largest anchor investor in Indonesia’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) to date after announcing plans to inject US$10 billion at the directive of UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
  • New Cable Connection: Facebook said it planned two new undersea cables to connect Singapore, Indonesia and North America in a project with Google and regional telecommunication companies to boost internet connection capacity between the regions. The cables, according to the executive, will be the first to directly connect North America to some of the main parts of Indonesia, and will increase connectivity for the central and eastern provinces of the world’s fourth most populous country. “Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea, and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-pacific by about 70%,” Facebook VP of Network Investments Kevin Salvadori told Reuters. Salvadori said Echo is being built in partnership with Alphabet’s Google and Indonesian telecommunications company XL Axiata and should be completed by 2023.

US/Foreign Affairs-

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs: The White House said Friday that President Joe Biden has nominated the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, to become assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Kritenbrink, a veteran diplomat, is considered an Asia expert with considerable knowledge on Chinese affairs. He supervises US diplomacy with Indonesia.

Jokowi Calls For Summit on Myanmar: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Friday called for a special ASEAN summit to discuss the Myanmar situation, as harsh crackdowns on anti-coup protesters continue in the member country. In a statement, the president said he will propose to Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah that a leaders’ meeting be held immediately. Brunei currently serves as chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Expressing concern over security forces’ deadly use of force against protesters, the president called for a stop to the violence so there will be “no more casualties.” He also urged all sides in Myanmar to hold talks and seek reconciliation to restore democracy and stability in the country.

Security-

A newlywed couple, who had recently joined a radical Islamic faction, died Sunday in a thwarted attempt to detonate a bomb at a Palm Sunday mass in Makassar, South Sulawesi. 19 people were wounded in the blast.

(sources: International and Indonesia news media, Bali Update (from balidiscovery.com), Reformasi Weekly, US Embassy website)