Subject: Indonesian merchants rule the market
Mon, 08/31/2009 11:55 AM | Special Report
SpecialReport: Indonesian merchants rule the market
The Jakarta Post
The kiosks at the Mercado Market tell the whole story: almost everything
here, from toothpaste and household appliances, to clothing to seasoning
commodities like turmeric, comes from Indonesia.
Shopping here feels much like in any market in a major urban area in
Indonesia, with people speaking and shouting at each other in
Indonesian. Indonesian traders mingle with locals, and the shared
language makes business easier.
"Prospects are excellent," said a smiling Joko, a clothing supplier from
Surakarta, Central Java, who comes to Timor Leste regularly.
On the streets, young people rev up their Japanese scooters imported
from the country's closest neighbor; the countless cars and trucks
clogging the streets is also indicative of a burgeoning middle class.
A decade after independence, Indonesia remains the most important
business partner for the impoverished Timor Leste.
Imports from Indonesia keep growing every year. In 2008, Indonesian
exports to its former colony reached US$110 million, a dramatic jump
from $38 million in 2007, statistics The Jakarta Post obtained from the
Indonesian Embassy there.
Next comes Singapore, with trade volume of $50 million last year,
Australia with $40 million, followed by Vietnam and Malaysia with $30
million each, according to the statistics.
Indonesia supplies Timor Leste with basic goods, fuel, cars and parts,
electronics and furniture. And the former colonial master is doing
everything to keep its exports competitive.
"We'll keep expanding bilateral trade relations every year," says
Indonesian Ambassador to Timor Leste Eddy Setiabudhi.
Opportunities to do business remain wide open for Indonesian investors,
as Timor Leste gears up for infrastructure development to woo direct
foreign investment and create jobs.
Faustino Cardoso Gomes, director of Timor Leste National University's
research center, says the Xanana Gusmao administration has prioritized
trade with Indonesia over that with other countries like Singapore and
Australia, or even former colonial power Portugal, because the country
relies heavily on Indonesia for the bulk of its basic commodities.
To support efforts to boost bilateral relations, Indonesia has
established an Indonesian Cultural Center, aimed at promoting Indonesian
culture in Timor Leste for better understanding between the two peoples.
Although the institution is already there, the embassy is still seeking
to acquire a building to accommodate activities such as performances and
Indonesian language courses.
Students of the St. Joseph high school in Dili, who learned to play the
angklung (bamboo percussion instruments) at the cultural center,
recently performed during the Indonesian Independence Day celebration at
the Indonesian Embassy, along with angklung artists from Mang Ujo Studio
Still nursing the wounds from decades of conflict, the two countries
have joined forces in security and defense, with Indonesia providing
training for the Timor Leste police force, while Timor Leste military
chief Gen. Taur Matan Ruak has invited his Indonesian counterpart to
visit Dili this September.
The trip will be the first by Indonesia's top brass to Timor Leste to
forge cooperation over the past decade.
The bilateral cooperation has to date focused mainly on joint border
security, which also involves the UN police, customs and excise, as well
as immigration authorities from the two countries.
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