Indonesian president eyes $20bn of investment on UAE trip

Indonesian president Joko Widodo. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Indonesian president eyes $20bn of investment on UAE trip

  • The president is scheduled to deliver a speech at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on Monday
  • The president is inspired by how cities in UAE are developed as smart, green cities

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s president is seeking to land $20 billion worth of deals during his trip to Abu Dhabi through bilateral and business talks.

President Joko Widodo, who arrived in the UAE on Sunday, is hoping to secure investment agreements in the energy, health, infrastructure, and agriculture sectors, as well as development projects for the country’s new capital in East Kalimantan.

“The president is inspired by how cities in UAE are developed as smart, green cities and they are one of the models for the new capital’s development,” Achmad Rizal Purnama, director for Middle East affairs at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, told Arab News.

He added that the two countries were also set to sign a cooperation agreement on Islamic education that would emphasize religious moderation and tolerance, which showed the “true face of Islam” amid rising extremism and intolerance.

Government minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who led the Indonesian side in negotiations and preparation for the visit, said that cooperation on Islamic matters would also include the construction of a mosque in Solo, Central Java, that would be a replica of Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque and serve as an Islamic center offering training for clerics. The mosque’s construction is due to start this month.

He said earlier this week that the investment agreements to be signed during the visit would be worth up to $20 billion.

Pandjaitan visited Abu Dhabi in December to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and prepare for the president’s two-day visit, securing some initial agreements that would be signed during the visit such as projects with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to develop state-owned oil company Pertamina’s refinery in Balongan, West Java, and an agreement with Mubadala to develop Pertamina’s refinery in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. 

The state electricity company would sign an agreement with renewable energy company Masdar to develop a 145-megawatt floating solar power plant in Cirata, West Java. State-owned mining holding company Inalum would sign an agreement with aluminum producer Emirates Global Aluminium to develop a smelter and a hydropower plant with 500,000 tons of production capacity per year.

His meetings in Abu Dhabi also included preparation for a memorandum of understanding that would secure the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’s involvement in Indonesia’s infrastructure development, and extending an invitation to the crown prince to send a team to see a hydropower potential in Papua and North Kalimantan.

“We hope that the UAE would become a partner to develop several carbon projects in Indonesia,” he said.

In the agriculture sector, Indonesia and the UAE would have a business-to-government agreement between the UAE’s Elite Agro and Indonesia’s Agricultural Research and Development Agency to develop a tropical greenhouse in West Java and Central Kalimantan and research the possibility of cultivating tropical plants in the Middle East and Africa.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters on Thursday at the presidential palace that the Abu Dhabi visit was a follow-up of the crown prince’s visit to Indonesia in July, during which companies from the two countries signed agreements totaling $9.7 billion in investment value.

Purnama said that, since the July visit, investment cooperation between the two countries had been developing fast and significantly, making the UAE one of Indonesia’s main investment partners.

The president is also scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on Monday.

“He will address the future global challenges on energy, a new paradigm on energy security to sustainable energy and how to accommodate the climate change,” Purnama said.

New Indian law could force thousands of NGOs to shut down, activists claim

Updated 24 September 2020

New Indian law could force thousands of NGOs to shut down, activists claim

  • Thousands of small NGOs that are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally may be forced to shut down
  • Many small NGOs questioned the timing of the new legislation, as they have been heavily involved in providing relief to millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic

NEW DELHI: A new law passed by India’s parliament on Wednesday imposes restrictions that will force thousands of NGOs to shut down, dealing a major blow to the country’s civil society, activists say.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) 2020, which regulates the use of foreign funds by individuals and organizations, is “for national and internal security” and to “ensure that foreign funds do not dominate the political and social discourse in India,” Nityanand Rai, junior home minister, told the upper house as it passed the regulation on Wednesday.

But Indian NGOs fear that the law will mean they are no longer able to operate.

“Thousands of small NGOs, which enable good work and are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally, will shut down — also endangering the livelihoods of those dependent on them for a vocation,” Poonam Muttreja, director of the Delhi-based Population Foundation of India, told Arab News.

As the new law does not allow NGOs to share funds with any partner, individual or organization, small groups — particularly those active at the grassroots level — may end up being unable to receive the donations on which they depend for survival, Muttreja warned.

“Donors can’t give small grants to local NGOs, so they give large grants to an intermediary organization with the desire to work with grassroot-level NGOs, (of which there are many) in India,” Muttrejia said.

On Thursday, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) — an umbrella organization for Indian NGOs — held a press conference during which members questioned the timing of the new legislation, since many small NGOs have been heavily involved in providing relief to millions of people across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the worst possible time to hamper civil society,” the director of Ashoka University’s Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy, Ingrid Srinath, said during the conference. “Just when this country needs its entire civil society to work together with the private sector and the government to address the multiple problems that confront us — not only the health ones but the larger issues of where the economy is going and the many polarizations taking place on the ground.”

Srinath also pointed out that no wider consultation with NGOs had taken place before the law was passed.

According to Delhi-based civil society activist Richa Singh, the law is an attempt by the government to silence dissent in the country.

“The larger purpose is to further silence those civil societies that are critical of (the government). It is a political message to fall in line,” she told Arab News. “While foreign money in the form of investment is being welcomed and labor laws are weakened for it, aid money is selectively targeted.”

Amitabh Behar, the chief executive of Oxfam India, called it a “devastating blow” and also criticized the government’s double standards over the acceptance of foreign funds.

“Red carpet welcome for foreign investments for businesses but stifling and squeezing the nonprofit sector by creating new hurdles for foreign aid which could help lift people out of poverty, ill health and illiteracy,” he said in a Twitter post on Sunday, when the FCRA bill was introduced to the lower house.