Indonesia President Widodo to investors: Call me if you have any problems

JAKARTA - Indonesia President Joko Widodo on Monday presented an audience of the region's key policymakers, corporate bigwigs and analysts with an open invitation to invest in Indonesia, assuring businessmen that he would give their concerns his personal attention.

"See our amazing opportunities, please come invest in Indonesia," he said in a speech delivered in his trademark direct style.

"Call me if you have any problems," he added, as the audience burst into applause.

More than 700 participants from East Asia, Europe and Africa are attending the forum organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia.

Best known for its annual meeting in Davos, the WEF is a non-profit international institution headquartered in Geneva. Apart from East Asia, the WEF holds regional meetings in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. 

"Our challenges are your opportunities," Mr Joko said, referring to the tough economic conditions which have seen Indonesia's growth rate stumble as commodity prices, a mainstay of its exports, crashed since 2011.

"We've been here before," he said, referring to the 1980s, when commodities made up 80 per cent of Indonesia's exports and a crash in  crude prices left the country reeling.

With commodity prices at a low again, Indonesia faces challenging circumstances again, said Mr Joko, who admitted that the country had neglected to develop its manufacturing and services sectors while it enjoyed the commodity ride.

Foreign investors and domestic businesses are looking to Mr Joko to create a better business environment.

Indonesia ranks a low 114th out of 189 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index. It needs more foreign investment to create jobs - some 2.4 million people will join the working age population every year over the next decade. 

Commodities remain a key source of export revenue for Indonesia and a fall in commodity prices since 2011 has hit its current account deficit adversely.

But Indonesia will prevail, Mr Joko said.

"We've done it before, we shall do it again.

"History is on our side, I would say even God is on our side.

"Join me and my  people on an incredible journey and make incredible profits," he told his audience.

And in case they did not hear him clearly the first time, he ended his speech with a gentle reminder: "If you have any problems, call me."

bhagya@sph.com.sg