* Originally posted on May 21, 2013.
A friend whom I met during the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference in Hong Kong in 2004, Chatib “Dede” Basri, has been appointed yesterday as the Finance Minister by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
He is a soft spoken yet highly articulate and intelligent guy. He got his PhD Econ from the Australia National University (ANU). He was the Director of the Institute for Economic and Social Research Faculty, University of Indonesia.
In his presentation nine years ago in HK, I remember that two of his slides showed a quote from Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.
Here is one report today from the Jakarta Globe.
Editorial: Free-Market Thinker to Lead Finance
By Jakarta Globe on 9:23 am May 21, 2013.
The appointment of M. Chatib Basri as the fourth finance minister under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a welcome move. The new minister has the requisite experience, but more importantly he understands the needs of the business community.
As he settles unto his new post after a successful stint at the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Chatib will have to tackle several key issues immediately. These include keeping the budget deficit from exploding, dealing with the fuel subsidy issue and boosting tax collection.
These are not easy challenges, but Chatib has the experience, skills set and economic knowledge to make the right decisions.
The most pressing challenge will be to deal with ever-rising fuel subsidies. It is clear that the state cannot afford to fund fuel subsidies without causing serious damage to the state budget and macroeconomic stability. But managing the political implications of raising fuel prices will require skill and a significant amount of socialization.
On this score, his apolitical stance will stand him in good stead. Political parties cannot accuse him of politicking or favoring any side. But he will have to work hard to get legislation on his side.
Chatib is also probably the best person to improve the investment climate given his time at BKPM, where he cut red tape significantly. He will have to continue these efforts at the Finance Ministry. If he is able to streamline bureaucracy, he will have made a major contribution to improving both the investment as well as the business climate in the country.
A soft-spoken man, Chatib is nonetheless a forceful economic thinker. He is a free-market advocate who supports free enterprise, which is critical in ensuring that Indonesia remains an open economy. His appointment is good for the country and the economy.