Rachmat Gobel — a successful businessman who chairs the Gobel Group of companies with operations ranging from manufacturing, trading, services and integrated logistics management — takes over the helm at the Trade Ministry at a difficult time.
Indonesia is struggling to cope with its deteriorating trade balance while at the same time maintain a strong trading position in a more open global market and amid weak worldwide demand, with the added problem of currency volatility.
Next year, will also see the implementation of the ASEAN single market with goods and services flowing more freely across the Southeast Asian region.
His plate may already be full, but Rachmat, 52, enjoys a challenge. “For me, exports must go up. The target is that within five years, exports can increase three-fold,” he told reporters during his first day of office after taking over from former trade minister Muhammad Lutfi.
Indonesia’s exports target has recently been slashed to US$184.3 billion this year — barely 1 percent up on the previous year — compared to the 4.1 percent growth expected previously, to top $190 billion, according to the Trade Ministry.
The faster pace of import growth has been matched by a commodities slump this year, with the trade balance posting a deficit of $1.01 billion from January to July this year. Rachmat, who is known for his tough leadership style at PT Panasonic Gobel Indonesia, is keen on fixing this as soon as possible.
“The first thing is how to safeguard Indonesia’s domestic market […] How to deal with imports is not an easy job and boosting exports is also not an easy thing, [but] the two of them must be achieved as soon as possible,” said Rachmat, the second generation of the Gobel family to lead the conglomerate.
He wants to finalize laying out the general working plan for his ministry within this week, aiming to do things “efficiently”.
The minister will also have to lay out the nations’ fresh approach to international trade for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting and G20 Leaders’ Summit.
The 21 APEC members — which account for over half of the world’s economic output and 46 percent of total global trade — will meet on Nov. 5-11 in Beijing, while the G20 Leaders’ Summit will take place from Nov. 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia.
Based on four indicators of a good leader — integrity, competency, communication skills and network — the appointment of Rachmat has been welcomed by Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) economist Latif Adam.
“Rachmat Gobel meets these criteria and he has a lot of experience in trade, such as market creation. One of our major trade challenges will be to diversify export products and destinations and I believe he can attain higher goals for trade,” Latif said.
Rachmat has also talked with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) as well as the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) for input from the most powerful business groupings in the country.
Apindo presented its economic roadmap to President Jokowi recently, which focuses on, among other things, the need to create at least 3 million jobs every year. The roadmap emphasizes several sectors that include energy, food and agriculture, manufacturing, services and finance, as well as cross-sector concerns such as on legal certainty, decentralization and bureaucracy reform.
“So, as the President said, ‘work, work, work’. That means [we have to] work hard,” Rachmat said.
Source : The Jakarta Post | October 28, 2014