INDONESIA – ECONOMY: China is a more dangerous partner than expected, according to the Jakarta Post

In a daily editorial, The Jakarta Post calls for an independent investigation team to conduct a thorough investigation into the root causes of the deadly riot at the PT Gunbuster Nickel plant on Saturday. Industry (GNI) Morowali, Central Sulawesi.

The team is expected to recommend measures to prevent the recurrence of such acts of violence, especially in special economic zones where foreign workers work. The government and GDP must make a firm commitment to accept and implement these recommendations to ensure sustainability of investment. Among Indonesia’s largest investors, the increasing involvement of Chinese investors, especially in labor-intensive projects, often provokes suspicion and even public protest, as in some cases Indonesian labor cannot fill the jobs created under the investment agreement.

More importantly, according to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia and China should be ready to learn from this deadly incident. Chinese companies should provide their employees with training and knowledge about Indonesian culture and employment systems, including a basic Indonesian language course, before going to Indonesia. On the other hand, the Indonesian government and business partners should provide local employees with basic information about Chinese companies, including their corporate culture. It feels like the government is focusing on the foreign investment boom but sweeping the potential risks under the carpet. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is known for his desire to make Indonesia a center for nickel-based production for products such as electric vehicle (EV) batteries. GNI started commissioning the smelter in late 2021 with an annual capacity of 1.8 million tonnes and an estimated total investment of US$2.7 billion. After the incident, Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita said it was in the country’s interest for GNI and its employees to stand together to create a “conducive business environment in accordance with existing regulations.”

The government moved quickly to restore peace and order at the factory. National Police Chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo said that at least 71 people were arrested, 17 of them were suspected of vandalism. Listyo said additional reinforcements would be sent to assist the 548 police and military personnel already providing security at the plant, which employs about 11,000 Indonesian workers and 1,300 Chinese nationals. Central Sulawesi Police spokesman, Sr. Comr. Didik Supranoto said tensions rose between workers and company owners on Friday after the two sides discussed workers’ demands for better workplace safety following a factory explosion in December that killed two workers. But Indonesian workers were unhappy with the company’s response, and riots broke out when workers called a strike. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the Chinese embassy in Indonesia has contacted Indonesian officials about the incident.

China will continue to maintain close contact with the Indonesian side and promote a legal and proper solution to this incident,” Wang told Reuters on Monday. A lack of knowledge and desire to better understand the host has happened in the past, when labor-intensive manufacturers from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan arrived decades ago. At first, resistance from the population and local authorities was common, but after mutual understanding and trust was established, this was resolved. Indonesia and China maintain close bilateral relations. The Morowali incident reminded us that there is still much homework to be done, especially at the grassroots level.

Thank you Paul di Rosa

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