Indonesia's Chairul Tanjung: Key is a 'sharing and caring' ASEAN

MANILA, Philippines – Chairul Tanjung, 51 years old, is expansive and larger than life.

Listed as Indonesia's 5th richest by Forbes with a net worth of $4 billion, Chairul runs an array of businesses from mass media (2 of the top 5 television stations in Indonesia and the top online news site) to banking and retail. Until he resigned last week.  

On Monday, May 19, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inaugurated Chairul as the country's Coordinating Economic Minister, Indonesia's chief economist. He replaced Hatta Rajasa, who is running for vice president in the July elections.

Three days later in Manila, on Thursday, May 22, Chairul sits with Rappler's Maria Ressa for his first interview with foreign media on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Chairul says Indonesia is ready for the creation of one economic market – the integration of ASEAN set for December 2015, pointing out that Indonesia is "controlling almost 40% of the ASEAN economy."

The majority of Indonesia's 250 million people are "young and productive," and this "bonus demography" should give the country "funding for our growth, for economic development for the future."

Chairul estimates that Indonesia is 77% prepared for an integrated ASEAN, compared to what he said was an average of 72% among neighboring countries. "So it means we are more ready than the average ASEAN country," says Chairul. 

He talks about possible winners and losers in integration, pointing out that the more advanced countries like Singapore stand to benefit while the poorer nations may not do as well.

Analysts say that the poorer nations may well become manufacturing hubs because of attractive labor conditions. It's the middle countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, they say, who run the highest risk.

"You know ASEAN community, we share everything," says Chairul. "We are a sharing and caring organization. We don't want to make somebody win so much, or somebody lose so much. So someone who benefits so much has to be caring and sharing to the others who lose. That is the principle of ASEAN."

Chairul owns detik.com, Indonesia's number 1 online news site, and recently announced a partnership with Turner Broadcasting to provide CNN Indonesia in the local language.

"Indonesia is a very unique place in the lifestyle of its people," he says. "I believe technology is the future of our economy. We still have a long way to go, but e-commerce will come in the next 5 to 10 years,  and we better prepare for it." – Rappler.com

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