Economy, Published articles

Building the War Chest

The palm oil business is in a slump. As of August, the price of palm oil stood at $484 per tonne, down from $606 in June. Many investors are now gloomy about palm oil prospects but not Arif Patrick Rachmat. Following Warren Buffett’s suggestion to be contrarian, Arif is optimistic about palm oil.

Arif, 40, is now building up his war chest. He is busy acquiring plantations nearby the company’s plant as prices keeping going down. He is able to buy many plantation and mining concessions at asset values. “Just like Warren Buffet said, when the market is pessimistic, we have to be optimistic. Build up your balance sheet, because the opportunity is here. The opportunity is now,” says Arif, chief executive of PT Triputra Agro Persada, a palm oil producer.

In relation to that, this year, Arif has set aside Rp 2 trillion for capital expenditure, which will be used for plantation intensification, maintenance, road hardening, and plant expansion. Arif got started in the palm oil business in 2005 when he came back to Jakarta after a few years working at General Electric (GE) in the U.S. Initially, he returned purely to help out his elder brother, Christian Ariano Rachmat, who was working on the buyout of coal miner Adaro. “I was very surprised when my brother told me the size of Adaro was $1 billion. Then I decided to come back home and left GE for good,” says Arif.

After the Adaro transaction, Arif settled down in Indonesia and moved into palm oil. Why palm oil? “Our country is strong in natural resources,” says Arif. Despite the palm oil price decline, Arif still has faith in the business as the country’s palm oil yield is still good. Currently, Triputra employs 20,000 to work on 165,000 hectares of plantation, which is almost twice the size of Singapore.

Moreover, Arif believes in the future of palm oil as it can be used to reduce fuel imports. “The country’s palm oil production is 30 million tonnes. About five million is dedicated for food, 20 million for exports, while the rest for biodiesel, which can be converted into 100,000 barrels of oil per day,” says Arif. Sooner or later, he adds, the country should lower its 500,000 barrels of fuel imports.

This year, Arif is confident that Triputra can increase palm oil output by 60% compared to the previous year. “It will bring significant growth output,” says Arif. Subsequently, he added, the harvest time probably the best time to tap the capital market. “Yes, we are planning for IPO, but we are waiting for the perfect time,” he says. The company also has stringent sustainability and environmental policies, such as a zero burning policy and a moratorium on growing on peat or primary forests. The company is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil.

*This article was published on Forbes Indonesia 5th anniversary issue of October 2015. For further information, please visit:


The Chinese migration

Fujian Province of ChinaThis morning, I read an article on Forbes Asia about Win Win Tint, a businesswoman who owns and runs City Mart Holding, Myanmar’s leading chain of food markets. The most interesting part of the story is that the ancestors of Tint was migrated from China’s Fujian province many years ago.

Fujian probably is not that familliar for many people (or Hokkien, probably it sounds more familiar). But for me, this province sounds very familiar, as many of the tycoons here migrated (or probably like Tint, her ancestors emigrated) from Fujian province, namely Eka Tjipta Widjaja (founder and owner of Sinarmas Group), the founder of cigarette maker Sampoerna, Liem Seeng Tee, Liem Sioe Liong (or known as Sudono Salim, owner of the Salim Group).

Fujian is located in Southeast coast of mainland China, bordered by Zhejiang to the North, Jiangxi to the West, and Guangdong to the South. The name ‘Fujian’ came from the combination of Fuzhou and Jianzhou. Its population is chiefly of Han origin, it is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse provinces in China. It has mountainous landscape, which makes Fujian as the most secluded province, but has a strong academic tradition.

Fujian is one of the more affluent provinces with many industries spanning tea production, clothing and sports manufacturers. Many foreign firms have operations in Fujian. They include Boeing, Dell, GE, Kodak, Nokia, Siemens, Swire, TDK and Panasonic.

Tea farmers in Fujian province

Many ethnic Chinese around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, trace their ancestry to Fujian. Descendants of Fujian migrants make up the predominant majority ethnic Chinese populations of Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Fujian, especially Fuzhou, is also the major source of Chinese immigrants in the United States, especially since the 1990s.

While the tradition of Chinese migration is long-standing, a distinction can be drawn between an “old” migration that lasted until the late 19th century and a “new” migration that dates from about the 1980s. The decades between these two migrations was a transitional period shaped by enormous change globally and within China itself that saw migration severely curtailed relative to what had come before and what was to follow. The two periods of global conflict during World War I and World War II, which were separated by a profound economic depression, were followed by a period of tight control of migration in China under communist ideology until the early 1980s.

Though distinct, the old and new migrations are interconnected. The old migration created ethnic Chinese communities concentrated primarily in Southeast Asia (but also around the world) that survived the transition period — albeit often in reduced form — and that formed a global network of Chinese that has facilitated the new, accelerated migration taking place since the 1980s.

The changes in the migration habits of the Chinese are evident in terms of the overall ethnic Chinese population living outside of China. By the end of the 20th century, there were an estimated 33 million ethnic Chinese living overseas, an increase from around 22 million in 1985 and from 12.7 million in the early 1960s. Given the generally low fertility of overseas Chinese populations, this suggests the increasingly significant role of migration from China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) over the second half of the 20th century.

These Chinese migrants were sojourners: people who left home with the intention of returning rich, marrying, and settling down. Yes, they are (even many Chinese migrants that moved to the US just turn out to become a cook or dishwasher in a restaurant). Too bad.


Harapan baru (?)

Mereka yang diganti dan menggantikan
Mereka yang diganti dan menggantikan

Nyaris dua minggu lalu Presiden Jokowi me-reshuffle Kabinet Kerja. Sejumlah menteri terpaksa pensiun dini, ada juga yang pindah kantor. Beberapa menteri memang sudah diprediksi harus hengkang. Ya penyebabnya macam-macam pastinya, mulai dari sembarangan bicara, hingga tudingan “tidak bisa kerja”. Namanya saja “Kabinet Kerja”, masa ga bisa kerja sih, Pak?

Tapi yang menarik dari proses reshuffle ini, terlihat jelas ternyata Jokowi dan JK pun masih berseberangan pendapat. Tampak jelas, hanya dalam beberapa waktu pasca pelantikan, JK sudah misuh-misuh menghadapi “kepretan” Menko Kemaritiman yang baru, Rizal Ramli. Selidik punya selidik, ternyata sejak awal sebelum Kabinet Kerja terbentuk, Jokowi sudah mengadang-gadang nama Rizal Ramli. Hanya saja, JK menolak.

Bahkan kabarnya, penunjukan Rizal sebagai Menko Kemaritiman adalah tanpa persetujuan JK. Beberapa kali sebelum Lebaran, Rizal ketemu secara sembunyi-sembunyi dengan Jokowi untuk membicarakan masalah ekonomi, katanya.

Masuknya Rizal Ramli dalam Kabinet Kerja memang tidak lepas dari pengaruh Luhut Pandjaitan yang sudah lama mengenal Rizal. “Kami ini orangnya Gus Dur,” kata Rizal. Kedekatan Rizal dan Luhut berawal ketika Rizal sedang meraih gelar Ph.D di Boston University pada tahun 1990. Di saat yang bersamaan, alm. ekonom kenamaan, Sjahrir juga sedang mengenyam pendidikan doktor di Harvard University. Tanpa sengaja, alm istri pertama Rizal, Herawati berteman akrab dengan istri Sjahrir, Kartini Panjaitan, adik kandung Luhut Panjaitan. Dari sinilah perkenalan Rizal dan Luhut dimulai. Saat kembali ke tanah air, Rizal kembali ke Bandung (Rizal dan alm istrinya sama-sama mengenyam pendidikan S1 dari ITB), di situlah keakraban Rizal dan Luhut dimulai.

IMHO, tidak ada yang salah soal kegiatan endorse-mengendorse calon menteri sejauh sang calon adalah sosok yang mau kerja cerdas. Setuju?

Jika dilihat komposisi menteri yang baru ini, mudah-mudahan ada secercah harapan agar Indonesia bisa luput dari cengkraman krisis global dan perlambatan ekonomi (meski Gubernur BI, Agus Martowardojo, hari ini masih optimistis pertumbuhan masih mampu menginjak 5.1%). Keberadaan Darmin Nasution sebagai Menko Perekonomian menggantikan Sofyan Djalil,  mudah-mudahan dapat memulihkan kepercayaan pasar yang sedang kacau.

Sebelum ditunjuk menjadi Menko Perekonomian, Darmin sempat menjadi Gubernur Bank Indonesia, Dirjen Pajak dan Kepala Bapepam (sekarang OJK). Jam terbang doktor lulusan Paris-Sorbonne University untuk masalah ekonomi tak perlu diragukan lagi.

Demikian juga halnya dengan kehadiran Tom Lembong sebagai Menteri Perdagangan yang baru (menggantikan Rachmat Gobel). Sebagai orang “pasar”, mudah-mudahan saja, Tom yang lulusan Harvard University ini tak mengulang kesalahan pendahulunya.

Ya semoga!


Politik transaksional

Indeks anjlok nyaris 50 points setelah siangnya Jokowi melantik menteri-menterinya. Di saat bursa regional menghijau, kita memerah. Tanya kenapa?
Indeks anjlok nyaris 50 points setelah siangnya Jokowi melantik menteri-menterinya. Di saat bursa regional menghijau, kita memerah. Tanya kenapa?

Hari ini merupakan hari paling bikin saya misuh-misuh sedunia. Kenapa? Karena saya kecewa berat sama sebagian menteri-menteri di Kabinet Kerja Jokowi khususnya menteri ekonomi.

Mungkin karena saya berharap terlalu besar bahwa pemerintahan kali ini akan berbeda, bahwa Jokowi berani berdiri di kakinya sendiri tanpa intervensi dari “ibu suri”, bahwa Jokowi akan lepas dari prinsip politik transaksional, dan bahwa Jokowi adalah orang yang dinanti-nanti bangsa ini setelah sekian lama.

Nyatanya? Jauh panggang dari api. Ya meski memang ada beberapa menteri yang kualitasnya bagus, profesional di bidangnya, dan (semoga) bersih, tetap saja sejumlah posisi menteri lainnya bikin bursa saham keki. Lihat saja, penutupan indeks hari ini memerah. Melemah nyaris 50 points. Padahal, indeks regional menghijau. Tanya kenapa?

Saya cuma menyayangkan kenapa Jokowi kok ga berani tegas dengan pilihan hatinya. Kenapa Jokowi (yang gosipnya) rela susunan menteri di kabinet yang sudah dia buat, last minute diacak-acak sama “ibu suri”. Bukannya memilih dan menetapkan menteri adalah hak prerogatif presiden?

Saya kecewa kenapa orang yang punya track record kurang prima dan kurang mumpuni malah ditunjuk bahkan jadi menko. Sementara ada sejumlah begawan ekonomi yang punya jam terbang tinggi, yang punya visi untuk pemulihan ekonomi Indonesia, yang udah punya strategi untuk pembenahan perekonomian di republik ini, malah disebut pun tidak!

Kenapa kok ya orang yang masih tersangkut kasus BLBI, malah diangkat jadi menteri strategis yang membawahi korporasi pelat merah yang kapitalisasi pasarnya udah ribuan triliun Rupiah. Why oh why?

Entahlah. Saya cuma berharap, negeri ini bisa jadi lebih baik. Tapi mungkin bukan di era Jokowi?


Buying health

parfait8 parfait7Buying health. Can you?

I can’t. So? I prefer to take good care of my body with those healthy meals. I started with bring my own home cooking meal to the office everyday. I have my homemade healthy juices and smoothies every morning. And try to swim or jog more frequent (frankly speaking, i am too lazy to do the last thing i mentioned).

Actually, my husband and I started this clean eating program since he got tumors on his back last year. It was a very stressful moment in life, since we just got married. It happened just six months after we got married. Anyway, that moment became our turning point to live healthily.

At the beginning we started to make juices every morning. The juices usually contains of fruits, such as carrot, apple, tomato, etc. Earlier this year, I started to put in some veggies like bok choy or romaine lettuce in our juices. Then, we feel that it helps us to digest better, make our metabolism works better than before, and sleep well for sure!

As time goes by, I see many people started to make green juice (put more veggies on the juices compare to the fruits). One of the pioneer is Nadya Hutagalung and also Sophie Navita with her green smoothie and raw food (though I am not eating raw food currently).

Anyway, as time goes by, i think (and my husband as well), I keep improving making smoothies. Initially, i just mix fruits, then gradually, I put veggies, cereal, muesli, mixed of nuts and seeds (almond, pistachio, pumpkin, sunflower) in it and make layers of veggies and fruits in the jar. Voila! Suddenly, I make beautiful, yummy and healthy smoothies. I love them!