Indonesian Investment Minister Thomas Lembong made an impassioned defence of the investment banking sector at the ASEAN-Australia summit, insisting well-paid bankers hold the key to solving infrastructure funding problems across the region.
Mr Lembong said securitisation was “the key” for member countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which are all struggling to secure trillions of dollars in much needed infrastructure investment.
“The money is actually there,” said Mr Lembong, during a panel discussion with key finance ministers from around the region on Saturday.
“There is a pool of savings that is there and it’s getting bigger all the time.”
He said the challenge was deploying those increased savings from the region’s rising incomes and growing middle-class to fund real projects.
“[Indonesian President Joko Widodo] believes that the key to moving the money from here to there is securitisation,” he said, noting that it was something “Australia knows very well how to do”, citing the Sydney airport privatisation.
He said it was about preparing financial models, feasibility studies and financial structures.
“One indirect implication of the importance of securitisation is that hopefully we can all agree 10 years after the Lehman Brothers crisis to stop scapegoating the bankers,” he said.
“We need the bankers … We should be willing to pay them well to do this very important work. Without restarting and re-energising the world’s securitisation engine, that financial liquidity is going to keep piling up in deposits and government securities and it won’t get across into infrastructure projects.”
Mr Lembong was speaking to an audience of chief executives, including Telstra’s Andy Penn and Macquarie’s Nicholas Moore at the summit in Sydney.
In a speech on Saturday to open the CEO Forum, the Indonesian President said there were big opportunities in infrastructure investment, e-commerce and financial services disruption for Australian businesses.
He also joked international politics had become “extra colourful” and a “circus” to keep up with the political dramas aired on Netflix.
“We politicians now have to compete against Netflix to grab your attention,” said Mr Joko.
“The politicians have no choice but to turn politics into reality TV because if we don’t, all of you will watch House of Cards and Stranger Things.”