Mahendra Siregar is one of the rising young Indonesian technocrats who are in a position assume the country’s top macroeconomic leadership positions. An economist by training, Mahendra recently served as deputy finance minister. Before that he held leading roles as deputy trade minister and deputy coordinating minister for economic affairs. In these capacities, Mahendra has accompanied President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the Group of 20’s leaders’ meetings.
Prior to his leadership positions in trade and finance, Mahendra was a career diplomat with Indonesia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and served in the Indonesian Embassy in Washington in the 1990s. He holds a master’s degree in economics from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Why is he in the news?
President Yudhoyono this month appointed Mahendra to be chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board, known as BKPM, the government agency responsible for promoting foreign investments in Indonesia. Mahendra succeeds Chatib Basri, who became finance minister in May. Chatib succeeded Gita Wirjawan, who is now Indonesia’s trade minister.
What can we expect from him?
Mahendra is a bold and capable leader. His ethical profile and commitment to his country are unquestioned. He is taking the helm of BKPM at a difficult time, with investors showing concerns about Indonesia’s slowing economic growth, growing account deficit, and ongoing protests from labor unions. He will also have to deal with the uncertainty ignited by the upcoming presidential elections in 2014.
As an official with experience in three important portfolios—foreign affairs, trade, and finance—Mahendra is well-placed to influence key policymakers in Jakarta. His appointment shows the Indonesian government understands the need to assure foreign investors amid the region’s worsening economic outlook. He can be expected to push for investor-friendly measures that would boost Indonesia’s competitiveness and investment climate.
Finally, look for Mahendra to be a top choice as a future minister of finance or trade. The bureaucracy respects him, politicians defer to his experience, and his clean record and integrity attract investors, both foreign and domestic.