ECONOMICS: Chinese in Indonesia
Far Eastern Economic Review
July 30, 1998

Indonesia:
 Economic Linchpin
  * By Salil Tripathi
    236 Words
07/30/98
p14    

From small towns on remote islands to commercial towers in central
Jakarta, the Indonesian economy moves to the beat of the ethnic-Chinese
minority. Indonesian-Chinese own 68% of the top 300 conglomerates, which
in turn control 80% of the country's corporate assets. Their business
interests cover the economic spectrum, from primary commodities to
manufacturing, property and finance.
   Yet only a handful of Indonesian-Chinese are tycoons heading business
empires. Most are small businessmen, traders and middlemen, who dominate
the distribution network that links commerce in this country of 17,000
islands. Without them, there would be few agents to clear cargo or
shippers to load it at port. And there would be few transport companies
to take goods to markets or wholesalers to distribute the goods.
 Michael Backman, an Australian expert on the Overseas Chinese, says:
"So much of the wealth in Indonesia is driven by the Chinese that any
crisis affecting them affects the overall business sentiment about
Indonesia."
   President B.J. Habibie has mocked the Chinese who have fled, saying
others will replace them. That's not a luxury that Indonesia can afford.
"Such comments show complete lack of understanding of the depth of
business expertise the Chinese-Indonesians have and how many generations
it takes to build that kind of expertise," says Lim Say Boon, a director
of Crosby Corporate Advisors who has extensive business experience in
Indonesia. "You can't replace it with the rest of the population
overnight."