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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     15 October  2011                    

Industry groups oppose Indo export tax

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Indonesian industry groups said on Thursday that they would oppose any plan by the government to impose duty on the export of power plant fuel.

Government talks involving the industry over an export tax for coal from Indonesia have been ongoing for several months, Supriatna Suhala, executive director of the Indonesian Coal Mining Association, said.

Indonesia, which holds some of the world’s richest mineral deposits, is the world’s top exporter of thermal coal.

“It is still only an idea,” said Suhala. “This is not a good sign for the investor.”

He added that any export tax would hit foreign investors in Indonesian coal, after they had ploughed cash into projects, equipment and related infrastructure.

Indonesian energy ministry official Thamrin Sihite was unavailable for comment.

“An export tax is a very long way away,” said Suhala. “First the government has to revise the law, then re-negotiate contracts — so it cannot be implemented in the near future.”

The coal export tax discussions are separate to the ongoing drafting of rules requiring miners to carry out minimum processing on minerals before export. In an effort to support the domestic industry and add value to its coal exports, the Indonesian energy and minerals ministry is drafting a regulation that would by 2014 require coal producers to upgrade low-quality coal to a medium-quality coal before exporting.

The mining industry says Indonesia needs to delay the implementation of the planned regulation, to enable the much needed value-added investments to catch up.

Indonesia already has an export tax for cocoa and palm oil.

The archipelago of 17,000 islands produces mainly low-grade coal, used predominantly in emerging markets, with Vietnam seen as an up and coming big consumer.

“No decision has yet been made,” said Singgih Widagdo, the director at the Indonesian Coal Society, referring to the export tax idea. “No figures have been issued yet. It’s difficult because if the government wants to introduce an export tax, at the same time it is in the process of re-negotiating mining laws.”

He said that major political parties would be opposed to such a tax on coal exports.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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