A Lion in Winter
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Ardian Wibisono Read : 1163 Date : Sunday, June 08, 2014 - 10:01:23

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    At the age of 88, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad still retains his charisma and acumen. Mahathir was in Jakarta in April, to deliver a lecture on the Malaysia-Indonesia relationship and meet with Indonesian businessmen, politicians and leaders (“old, new and even future leaders,” he says), including politician Megawati Sukarnoputri and president candidate Joko Widodo (Jokowi).

    Mahathir was Malaysia’s fourth, and longest serving, prime minister. Serving from 1981 to 2003, and reelected four times, Mahathir played a significant and sometimes controversial role in developing Malaysia. In 1991, Mahathir unveiled Vision 2020, a blueprint for Malaysia’s journey to become a developed economy and mature democracy by 2020.

    The interview touched on the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community, the economic relationship between the two countries, Indonesia’s election and politics, to his current activities at the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

    The ASEAN Economic Community will start next year, how will the Malaysia and Indonesia relationship benefit from the economic integration?

    I think it will be equally beneficial for the two countries. The Indonesian market is big whereas the Malaysian market is quite small, nevertheless there are plenty of opportunities for Indonesia to trade or invest in Malaysia. The regional economic community is a good idea of course, however there are some ASEAN countries that are at different levels of development compared with others. Thus, protection is needed for the less-developed members. In the end, ASEAN with half billion population is a large market. I believe there’s a good opportunity for economic growth and for tourism.

    You may also be aware about some tension between the two countries, do you see it as an obstacle for improving the economic partnership?

    Between neighbors there will always be problems, overlapping claims on land and sea, people moving into each other’s country and the need for the governments to protect their sovereignty. This happens all the time and should not be considered as affecting the good relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia. At the government level the relationship has always been good and this enables us to settle problems through negotiations and similar means. As far as I can see, the relationship should improve over time despite minor problems. The minor problems only affect a small number of people.

    What about the issue of Indonesian banks having difficulties in opening full branch offices in Malaysia?

    Indonesian banks can open branches in Malaysia. Foreign banks have operated in Malaysia for a long, long time. We have Japanese banks, American banks and British banks. These banks have conformed to our requirements. If the Indonesian banks conform to the rules and regulations, they can also open a branch in Malaysia. There is no problem with that.