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Indonesia wealth fund raises hopes, doubts and cash

JAKARTA – Chief executive candidates for Indonesia’s new sovereign wealth fund found themselves in a screening process hot seat when questioned how they would prevent a replay of Malaysia’s multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

“We were fully aware of the Malaysian experience in our design of the fund and not to make the same mistakes,” said Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati only days before she and her four-person supervisory board chose respected Bank Permata president Ridha Wirakusumah for the job.

Governance will be crucial, but it is not the only issue. The widespread skepticism that has greeted the fund also stems from complaints that the government should have prioritized fundamental economic reforms before handing out what one critic harshly calls a “begging bowl.”

Along with the Indonesia Investment Authority (LPI), as the new fund administrator is known, many if not all of those reforms are mandated in the ambitious Job Creation Omnibus Law, which passed Parliament last October amid spirited protests from labor unions.