Hashimoto urges Indonesia to be flexible in IMF talks

Sent by INDO-CHAOS's News-Hunter: "T.O" from Japan

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told visiting Indonesian Vice President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie on March 19 that he hopes Indonesia will take a flexible attitude toward important economic reform negotiations now under way with the International Monetary Fund, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Hashimoto told Habibie that so far, he is satisfied with Indonesia's flexibility toward the negotiations and said that they should be concluded promptly, the officials said.

Habibie told Hashimoto that the IMF has been flexible since Ha shimoto visited Indonesia last weekend and that Indonesia also will show flexibility in concluding the talks, they said.

Meanwhile, Habibie called for Japan to assist small and medium-size firms that are facing financial difficulties, the officials said. Habibie said such firms are suffering from such difficulties as inflation and high interest rates and expressed hope that some rescue measures would be extended to them, they said. He added that he hopes Japan will address the issue to the Group of Seven industrialized countries and the IMF.

Jusuf Habibie, Indonesia's new vice president, said March 19 that his country is mulling a currency basket for its battered rupiah, according to officials of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren).

Habibie told Keidanren executives that the Indonesian government wants to consider anything that could stabilize the rupiah. Under a basket system, a government determines its currency's value as compared to a "basket" of other currencies and allows it to trade only in a narrow range.

This kind of artificial system was used throughout Southeast Asia prior to last summer. While the pegs are widely regarded as helping to foster the Asian Miracle, they also are now seen as playing a role in bringing on the region's current crisis.

The tumult began, in fact, when currency traders sensed that the region's governments were not holding sufficient foreign reserves to maintain the pegs.

Habibie and representatives of Indonesian business leaders attended the meeting with Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of Keidanren, and other Keidanren executives.