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Monday, June 27, 2011

Indonesia: a country not yet on our radar but one that we should watch carefully.

I am in Indonesia. This has not been a tourist journey to Bali but a visit to the main island: Java and the capital Jakarta. I am sitting in the airport departure lounge waiting for a flight back to the UK. An opportunity to reflect on three weeks of sampling what this SE Asian country is about.

One can become so myopic and self-absorbed over our lives in the UK, that we lose sight of what is going on elsewhere. Whilst we haggle over our insular politics and economy, others are stirring themselves.

Sleeping Giant is an overused cliché but it is an apt description of this emerging country, which quietly accelerates on the outside lane as we hear of China, India and Brazil.

This Asian country may have some hiccups but with a population of 240 million, the fourth largest in the world, it has the critical mass to sustain domestic business. A stable democracy, manageable inflation, membership of G20, mineral resources and a central location in Asia- Pacific add to the mix. Admittedly there are problems and a cocktail of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis hit the headlines.

Overurbanisation and appalling traffic congestion cannot be denied, but after experiencing the dead hand of government trying to kickstart our own economy, it is revealing to see a country where a can-do culture is evident.

It is an eye-opener to see the roadside garages at work where seemingly thousands of skilled mechanics service the millions of scooters and motorbikes. No skill shortages here then. School kids are set the task of talking to tourists so as to sharpen their English skills.

This is a place of activity and energy. Nothing seems to be wasted, recycling is the norm and if one does not have a job there seems to be the entrepreneurial intiative to create one. This is a country where over-regulation and health and safety take a back seat. And yet, in making regular trips across the city I did not see a single accident. And of surveillance cameras? None to be seen.

Whilst we contemplate how to deal with Greek debt, this far away exotic nation which attracted us as the Spice Islands in the 16th century is getting its act together. We should be giving it much more attention.