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What do Indonesia’s National Elections Mean to the Country’s Largest Investor?


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July 23, 2014July 23, 2014 | Cem Ozturk

Japanese investment in Indonesia

Unlike several Western observers, Japan has refrained from publicly voicing its opinion on the elections in Indonesia and has made no statements on Prabowo Subianto nor the electability of an untested Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Japan, Indonesia’s single largest source of foreign investment, has yet to take a side — and it will not.

Japan is often perceived to be Indonesia’s most important economic partner. It has remained Indonesia’s largest export destination, and in 2013, Japanese foreign investment in Indonesia accounted for the single largest block of all investment at 16.5 percent according to numbers released by the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM). However, Japanese investment in Indonesia is not a new trend. In 2006, Japan was the largest investor in Indonesia, and every year since then it has been one of the top four investors in the country. Importantly, Indonesia is also the largest recipient in the region of Japanese overseas development assistance.

The profile of Japanese investment is expected to deepen in the next few years. Well documented by regional media, the effect “Abenomics”(fiscal measures instituted by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) has had in expanding Japan’s manufacturing base in Southeast Asia has been significant, particularly in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. However, recent floods and political instability in Thailand have pushed manufacturers to Indonesia in order to diversify against supply-chain risk. Additionally, a number of concerns in China have Japanese companies turning to Southeast Asia. These factors combined with the promise of selling directly into the largest economy and consumer base in the region have drawn more and more Japanese companies into Indonesia.

Impact on Japanese companies

Japanese firms with investments in the country recognize that election results are unlikely to fundamentally affect their interests. The proposals of the two candidates, insofar as they influence Japanese business, appear to be similar. In particular, both candidates:

Support robust infrastructure development, for which Japanese firms are perhaps the best positioned after decades of in-country experience.
Must deal with the unpopular need to wind down fuel subsidies, which according to analysts will impact domestic consumption for many Japanese automotive manufacturers.
Would keep the controversial ban on mineral ore exports, an area in which Japanese companies are particularly exposed with extractive projects across the country.

Most importantly, both candidates appreciate the need for Japanese investment to meet their growth targets. Additionally, Japanese firms understand that the most serious risks to businesses in Indonesia occur at the micro level, from the project up, rather than at the macro level, from national politics down.

The concept of risk for Japanese firms

Japanese firms operating in Southeast Asia perceive risk in a way that is often different from how Western firms see it. For Japanese investors, risk is locally specific and situational, and has little overlap with national politics. While they do consider national political and regulatory shifts important, interbusiness dynamics, including partner risk, and local-level political risk are often studied more closely.

Thus, their real area of concern, described by many as a lesson learned from past experience, is among local partners and project stakeholders. Japanese firms operating in Indonesia know that a nuanced understanding of their partners and their entire operating environment is critical. Therefore, it is essential that firms undertake bespoke research into the context of their partners, projects and joint ventures, rather than a blanket analysis of national-level issues.

As a result, the business intelligence requirements of many Japanese companies in Indonesia can be rigorous and exacting. They often demand a more thorough understanding of their local partners, the influence of competing local families and the influence of provincial and regency-level technocrats, as well as a granular view of the competitive landscape.

For Japanese firms, the risk in Indonesia is likely to be largely the same regardless of election results. Likewise, both candidates will require the steady reliability of Japanese investors to achieve their development goals. As Indonesia’s largest investor, Japan views the national elections as only a part of the formula for risk in the country. The real risk issues remain granular and situation-specific — a fact that Japanese businesses recognize from having more experience in the Indonesian economy than any other foreign investors.

Tags: Due Diligence Market Entry Mergers & Acquisitions Risk Assessments Government Law/Legal Professional Services Technology, Media & Telecoms Asia Pacific Indonesia Japan

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About the Author

Cem Ozturk

Cem Ozturk is a Senior Director in Kroll’s Southeast Asia Investigations and Disputes practice. Cem is part of Kroll’s Indonesia team, and Kroll’s Southeast Asia Japan Desk. In addition to a large Japanese client base, he provides global clients with business intelligence services, including investigative due diligence, market entry research and political risk analysis. He is responsible for case management and network development in Southeast Asia and Oceania, with a focus on opaque and high-risk markets.

About the Author

Cem Ozturk

Cem Ozturk is a Senior Director in Kroll’s Southeast Asia Investigations and Disputes practice. Cem is part of Kroll’s Indonesia team, and Kroll’s Southeast Asia Japan Desk. In addition to a large Japanese client base, he provides global clients with business intelligence services, including investigative due diligence, market entry research and political risk analysis. He is responsible for case management and network development in Southeast Asia and Oceania, with a focus on opaque and high-risk markets.

 

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