This post is dedicated to Tree, who in a get together recently complained that Unspun clips too much and writes too little these days. She here’s a writing post, sans clips.

Unspun is not let out often but now and then the office, in an act of compassion, lets him go out to a function or two. This morning was one of those days and Unspun trooped to the Services Committee of a chamber of commerce.

Those attending the meeting were representatives of businesses in the service industries – movers, insurance heads, lawyers, retailers, real estate agents, security types, NGO and foreign government types, heads of international schools, and even accountants (yes, they get let out now and then too).

What they do at the meeting is to share their thoughts about the latest developments in their industries and its amazing what sort of composite picture you can derive from these disparate observations. This morning’s meeting was no different and the picture that emerges of the Indonesian economy from the services sectors is this:

  • Times are good in Indonesia but better in the provinces that is seeing huge growth rather than the large cities. the retailer said that growth of modern retailers is more because of expansion. If you look at growth of existing outlets, it is pretty flat. These are also good times for retailers who cater to the bottom end of the market as low cost goods go like hotcakes out in the provinces.
  • More foreigners are coming into Indonesia. This inference is made from the accounts of the international schools people who said that JIS and ACG is now chocabloc full. They’ve seen a surge of foreigners coming in, mostly in families. The real estate people corroborated this, saying that more people are looking for housing. And the movers confirmed that there is a huge amount of inbound business.
  • The economy is good, particularly for textiles and manufacturing – someone in the group observed that Indonesian labor is now cheaper than China. He (no women there today but one or two have been known to defy convention and turn up at the committee’s meetings now and then) also said that some manufacturing is migrating back from Vietnam because of the country’s unsustainable growth.
  • Indonesia is putting the world in danger with its stance on avian flu and its exercise of “viral sovereignty”. However, Health Minister Siti’s claim that countries that provide samples of bacteria strains should receive part of the proceeds of the drugs developed form them is gaining traction in the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • Aceh is stuffed. With all the factions of GAM not speaking to each other and hating each other’s their guts Aceh will be a dismal pace when the BRR and the foreign donors pull out. The Acehenese politicians should just eat dodol and chill out (well, they didn’t say that because they are straight-laced businessmen but Unspun thought it and would have said so if he had had a chance).
  • There is actually some progress as the Customs try to clean up their act and do the right thing.
  • Indonesia may unwittingly have a boon year in tourism this and next year because of the fallout from the Thai political mess. A hotelier said that many tour operators will divert their customers from {Phuket to Bali because of the negative news coming out of Thailand at the moment
  • One member observed that if Indonesia tourism benefits it would be no thanks to the efforts of the government here. His anecdotal evidence of how slack the Tourism ministery here is – The first signs you see when you enter and leave Denpasar airport is a tourism advertisement – of Malaysia, not Indonesia. (Ah! one of the few things that the Malaysian Tourism Ministry has done right – hats off to them).

These were some of the things that Unspun learned today. What new things did you learn?

5 thoughts on “25 businessmen round a square table

  1. @Opah: Bitch! Seriously, Unspun writes the way he sees it and in this instance it was quite positive – or my old age has changed my view of the world. No matter I shall recite Dylan’s Thomas’s “Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light!”


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