In 2021, still Coping with Covid but also Growing
Managing Director’s Report to AmCham Indonesia 2021
Jan 05, 2022 | A Lin Neumann

By A. Lin Neumann

In 2021, we dared dream of an end to the pandemic and a return to what we once thought of as normal. It all seemed tantalizingly close at the end of the year and we even held a face-to-face dinner with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan as we tiptoed forward.

After the explosion of Covid 19 cases in June and July saw Indonesia take its turn as the global epicenter of the pandemic, many of us feared the hospitals would collapse. Then the ship gradually righted itself. By December, cases were down more sharply than seemed possible and we could hope for a calmer 2022. Then came Omicron and now it’s anybody’s guess where this will take us. For now, you can expect us to remain in the virtual space awhile longer.

Throughout 2021, almost all our meetings were still online but we stayed both busy and effective, providing detailed input to government ministries on issues ranging from reinsurance regulations to the e-catalog for medical devices. We found channels for companies to secure elusive work permits for sorely needed expatriate workers and brought difficult tax issues to the right officials as we searched for solutions on behalf of companies. This kind of detailed advocacy, time-consuming and done very quietly, has become the province of our policy team under Gusti Kahari and many companies can attest to its effectiveness. Our committees were deeply involved in their sectors and engaged in timely advocacy on ICT, Halal, life sciences, and other issues.

Let me make a special mention also of Peter Meyer and the Services Committee, which continues to provide the best ground-level snapshot of business activity in Indonesia.

In the public sphere, we had the Initiative Indonesia work, which included a well-attended Health Care Mission June 8-10 and an ICT Mission Sep 28-29. These allowed us to dig into the respective sectors and put companies together with the government to seek answers. Our annual Investment Summit, the 9th so far, was held Dec 13-15 with everything except for the meeting with Gov. Anies conducted online.

Those virtual events, which involve coordination with companies in several countries and our partners at the US Chamber of Commerce, drew an enthusiastic audience, raised money for AmCham, and deepened our standing as the voice of US business in Indonesia. These events can only happen because our Policy Team coordinates closely with Tari’s external relations expertise and Patricia’s keen organizational and management skills. It also helps that we have spent many years building relationships with the government and earning a reputation as an honest broker for our companies on issues that ultimately help Indonesia’s economy to grow and prosper.

Thanks for Your Support

In that vein, we all deeply appreciate the AmCham companies and Board members that invest in these activities with Platinum memberships, sponsorships, and other contributions. Without your financial support, our work would grind to a halt, of course. Your enthusiastic backing has kept AmCham on secure footing through the nearly two years of the pandemic. Our Board took a big risk a few years ago when it allowed us to expand the staff and increase the scale of our work. Thankfully we stayed the course even during the pandemic. 

Looking back at 2021, I am most proud of the new ground we opened up in the higher education sector. Our first Higher Education Summit was held July 13-14 and involved the US and Indonesian universities and officials. Education Minister Nadiem Makarim held a lively conversation with us during the event and we set the stage for further work in the years ahead. I cannot think of any issue that is more important for Indonesia’s future success than education reform and I hope AmCham continues to play a supportive role in this area. Big thanks go to USAID for its support of this work and to Patricia Puspitasari, who did much of the staff work to make this happen, including working on the report we issued to coincide with the Summit, Indonesia’s Path to Higher Education Reform. I also appreciate the encouragement we received from the US Embassy and the AmCham Board to move ahead with the Summit despite the risks. I believe it was all worth it. Talking through the event with Vice-Chair Doug Ramage was a great help for me.

Holding that thought, I want to thank our Chairman, Scott Hanna, and the entire Board for their keen oversight, advice, and vision. A manager could hardly ask for a better Board experience.

Throughout the year, AmCham also continued to contribute to public education efforts through our health and education forums, our three-times weekly AmCham Update, and our translation service, which again was ably supported by SSEK Legal Consultants, Risco Energy, Coke, Freeport, Cargill, Chevron, Pfizer, 3M, Caterpillar, CastleAsia and Merck. Thank you all for your support.

And this year?

What 2022 will hold is anyone’s guess. I wish I could say with confidence that this will be the year we get back to seeing one another in person and resuming our face-to-face social and business activities. But it would be foolish to say that. This new Omicron variant is frightening and we can only hope it is not followed by something worse. For now, we urge caution in movements, plans, and actions.

Fortunately, as the PowerPoint presented to the AGM shows, our revenues have held steady, membership has been steady and the number of Platinum members remains at 12. Our headcount in all categories was 694 in 2021, a slight decline from 2020. New companies came into the fold in 2021, as they always do and I am confident that will continue, especially in the tech and health sectors. We held 104 meetings in 2021, attended by nearly 4,000 people, an increase of almost 1,000 participants. AmCham remains a vibrant force for its members despite the pandemic and there is every reason to believe this will continue in 2022 and for many years beyond that.

Finally, with Indonesia holding the presidency of the G20 for the first time in 2022, we intend to be involved on the private sector side of those activities as a partner with Kadin and others. This is a good time for Indonesia to show off its credentials as a rising star in Southeast Asia. AmCham will support the Indonesian presidency and continue to be engaged in the future of the country.

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