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Australia's Downer seeks balance in Indonesian crisis

TOKYO, March 26 Kyodo

Solving the Indonesian crisis involves the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Indonesia finding a balance between their respective positions, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Thursday.

''The IMF must take into account the social fragility of Indonesia at this very difficult time, and on the Indonesian side they (the Indonesian government) must realize that they must take measures to restore market confidence in Indonesia and put together a sensible package that will achieve that result,'' Downer told a press conference at the Japan National Press Club.

Downer is visiting Tokyo following talks on the Indonesian economic crisis held with the IMF, the World Bank and the United States in Washington for three days from March 19.

He said the challenge for both Indonesia and the IMF will be finding a balance, and he said he believes they are still ''making progress'' in negotiations.

Downer praised the quality of Japan's contribution to Indonesia, saying that Japan and Australia are the only two countries to have contributed to all three IMF packages for the Asian currency crisis.

But he stressed the need for continuing humanitarian aid to Indonesia, an issue that will be addressed at a World Bank meeting next Wednesday in Washington.

''We need to have an agreed assessment of what precise measures are needed, for example in food security, and we need to work out a coordinated approach in providing the assistance we agree is needed,'' he said.

The U.S. announced Wednesday a humanitarian aid package of food and medicine totaling 56 million dollars.

Downer refused to be drawn out on questions about whether Japan's measures to stimulate its domestic economy have been sufficient. Australia would welcome a package from Japan to stimulate the economy, he said, but he added that fiscal stimulus is not the only method.

''From my discussions here I am aware that Japan is considering a further stimulatory package and there are questions about the nature of that stimulatory package,'' he said.

''I am also aware that the government here is very committed to continuing the process of deregulation and also structural reform in the financial sector,'' he said, adding, ''We have to see the package before we can make judgments.''
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Mar 30, 1998
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