Warsaw Voice, 23 April 2008 (http://www.warsawvoice.pl/articleX.php/17686)
Indonesia, a country of 250 million people, is overcoming the economic problems that all of Asia experienced in the late 1990s and is working hard to regain its market share in Europe. The Indonesian embassy in Warsaw is organizing a Trade Expo in Warsaw May 7-10 together with 26 Indonesian embassies throughout Europe.
Hazairin Pohan, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, talks to Jolanta Wolska.
Why did you decide to hold the Expo in Poland?
We wanted to find a central bridge between Western and Eastern Europe. So Poland was a natural choice. And secondly, we wanted to find a country with a robust economy, and I think Poland is already a big market with 40 million people and has a very dynamic economy. Because of the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s and competition, Indonesia lost its market share in Europe. We now need to show our European counterparts that Indonesia is very competitive both in terms of prices and products. Through this Expo we want to show that Indonesian businessmen are reliable, and we are confident that we will be able to regain the losses that we have suffered. In the last two years we have had around 6-7 percent economic growth. Before the crisis Indonesia had around 8-9 percent growth.
How many companies will be present at the Expo?
We have 26 embassies all over Europe and three consulates-general, and we are all working to bring buyers and investors to Warsaw.
We expect there will be around 1,000 Indonesian companies-manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. Because of Poland's strategic location I think Poland deserves to be the center for distribution and Polish businesses should establish ties with Indonesia. More than 5,000 buyers and investors will come to Warsaw for the Expo.
What Indonesian businesses are there in this country?
There are several South Korean companies that are listed in Indonesia, and there are Indonesian companies owned by the Koreans that established their factories in Poland, dealing mainly in electronic goods. There is also a strong interest from Indonesian developers who want to invest in building housing complexes, malls and apartments.
What does Indonesia export to Poland?
We mainly export industrial products, electronic components, building materials and pipes, and of course our furniture. We also export other energy-related products and a derivative of palm oil. We do not yet export our natural resources, but there are several companies in Indonesia that will come to Warsaw from this sector. We are open to investment in oil and energy, especially coal.
What does Indonesia import from Poland?
We import helicopters, ships, machinery and also dairy and meat products. The trade balance in 2007 was $600 million between our two countries and it is in our favor.
You are also looking to expand tourism to Indonesia.
Around 150 companies in the tourism industry will come from Indonesia for the Expo. The increasing per capita income in the whole region, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, creates a big market for tourism. Unfortunately, the number of tourists from this region is still small-around 10,000 every year from Poland, 50,000 from Russia, and around 5,000 from the Czech Republic. So it is not so big in comparison with other destinations like other traditional Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand. But I think that Indonesia offers innovative ways of promoting and developing its tourism industry. Indonesia is an endless destination, especially for eco-tourism; we have beautiful places in our country. We will also have 150 artists performing during our Expo from different parts of Indonesia, which is a unique opportunity to see our country's cultural wealth. Our cultural richness is endless with 300 ethnic groups which bring with them their own specialties.
Indonesia has a large number of golf courses.
Yes, lots of them. I organized two golf trips from Poland to Indonesia, and around 30-40 people joined the delegation. We visited several Indonesian provinces, and apart from holding business-to-business meetings our Polish guests cold enjoy golf while conducting business. Golf is very well developed in my country; we have about 150 golf courses and around Jakarta alone you can find 44 of them.
What cultural and educational agreements and exchanges does Indonesia have with Poland?
We signed a cultural and educational agreement with Poland in 2003. We have completed negotiations and I expect this document will be signed this year.
As part of the agreement, we agreed to the exchange of students and lecturers and research cooperation among universities, including cultural exchanges. As part of cultural cooperation our government is working to establish the first Indonesian cultural center in the world in Warsaw.
Additionally, every year we offer 40 scholarships for Polish people to study Indonesian culture, language, dancing and music.
I notice that you are drinking Polish tea-that is black tea with lemon. Have you gotten used to Polish food?
I always prefer Polish food when I am in Poland. It is part of my philosophy to eat the food of the country where I am living. I believe that eating the local food keeps one healthy. And my favorite Polish food is the barszcz soup and pierogi. I also like Polish grilled meats and the large variety of salads here.