What It Really Takes (for Indonesia to Reemerge as the Third World Leader)

[An essay I submitted to the G20 Youth Indonesia selection committee.]

Indonesians are trapped in historical romanticism for a reason: this archipelagic country was once indeed a great nation who stood up against post-colonialism inequality while promoting cooperation in order to accelerate the accomplishment of post-World War II development agendas. The establishment of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the success of Bandung Conference and consequentially Non- Aligned Movement, as well as Indonesia’s victory over the Netherlands in the case of West Papua; these three cases are enough evidence to demonstrate Indonesia’s outstanding performance back then. Not only were we the pioneer of great initiatives in the region, Indonesia was also respected as one of the game- makers during the Cold War era—hence validating the claim I made in the beginning of this essay.


Having undergone over 67 years as an independent republic, however, it is essential for us to stop glorifying the past and question our current standing: where are we right now? Have we lived the pride our Founding Fathers had about a harmoniously prosperous people they dreamt of? If not, what went wrong and—more importantly—how could we fix them? These inquiries are very pivotal drivers for today’s young generation lest this nation seeks to move on from exalting the past and start being proud Indonesians. Deep down, I always believe that if we manage to unleash all of Indonesia’s potentials, this country will not only reemergence as the leader of the Third World: we can be one of world’s greatest state-actors both in economic and political sectors. The following paragraphs will explicate further upon the foundational strategy that is deemed essential to achieve such an ambitious notion—each of which covers both national and international aspect of the policy.

I. Open Government: Bureaucratic Reform as the Backbone of Change

Blame the game, never the players. I believe that it is not impossible to change the behavior of individuals as long as an effective system is in place. All the issues coming from Indonesia’s bureaucrats, thenceforth, should also be dealt using this intelligent postulation: that the rules and regulations need to be frequently monitored and evaluated more than the countless problems themselves. In other words, the leaders of this country should utilize a helicopter view lest they wish to mend the republic holistically. So before Indonesia continues with big ideas on international standing and foreign policy recommendations, the issue of open government (i.e. transparency and accountability) needs to be addressed immediately— both as a domestic matter and a universal currency.

The story of Indonesia’s struggle in improving its bureaucracy has begun long before the 1st Open Government Partnership meeting was held in New York, 2011. But taking co-chairmanship with the United Kingdom this year, Indonesia has made a global commitment to enhance its checks and balances mechanism paralleled with national endeavors to increase society’s participation in the process. The year 2011, 2012, and 2013 are stated by the official Secretariat (under the President’s Delivery Unit of Development Monitoring and Oversight) respectively as the ‘commencement phase’, ‘breakthrough and innovation phase’ as well as the ‘expansion and intensification of public participation phase’. The year 2014, therefore, is a critical period that will determine the success of Open Government Indonesia’s four- year national roadmap as well as its bargaining position internationally.

If I were the next president of this republic, I will firstly ensure the continuation of this initiative. Domestically, a more open government will not only effectuate a better coordination as well as decision- making process amongst the cabinet and ministries I lead, but further it will also enhance the quality of public service units, eradicate corruption, restore society’s trust in the government and, in return, build stronger political participation. Internationally, Indonesia will gain more respect because, despite being a developing country, it dares to prove its consistency in promoting a more open government that adjusts with the advance of technology and innovation—which is still a difficult mission
for Third World countries.

II. The Archipelago Economy: (Agricultural) Growth for All

Having repaired the government’s home-performance through bureaucratic reform, my next focus would go to our economic growth. Above everything, we need to realize that Indonesia is one of a few countries that are bestowed with rich natural resources. To list a few, Indonesia is: 1) world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil, 2) second-largest exporter of coal, 3) second-largest producer of cocoa and tin with 4) fourth- and seventh- largest reserves of nickel and bauxite. November 2012, however, marked a historical wave in the course of Indonesia’s economic performance, when the country’s top 1.500 leaders gathered in a visionary meeting to discuss how Indonesia can boost its potentials even further. In this meeting, a report on The Archipelago Economy: Unleashing Indonesia’s Potential was presented and the findings were rather a shocking one: Indonesia was predicted to surpass Germany and the United Kingdom as world’s 7th largest economy by 2030.The analysis highlighted how it was pivotal to safeguard stability while promoting diversification of economy in order to invite more investors as one of the key factors in the country’s overall development. A thorough and meticulous management is then mandatory in order to deal with this once-in-a-century economic transformation. As the leader of the country, I would ensure that all of the participating parties in the national meeting to harmonize and accustom their respective institutions to take part in this astonishingly stimulating vision.

Among others, my priority would be set upon increasing the country’s national productivity in agriculture and fisheries. One of my most elementary reasons will be the apparent rise in the number of middle-class consumers in the emerging markets such as India and China. Domestically, the increased demand is predicted to take place simultaneously with giant migration of countryside citizens to the cities. According to the report, to meet domestic demand alone, Indonesia’s farms will need to increase productivity by 60%—making it imperative for the government to anticipate and ensure significant improvements in agriculture and fisheries sector. All of these efforts should aim at well-distributed growth throughout the archipelago, accompanied by adequate skill-based
investment in our youngsters.

III. Take Big Jargons to the Extra Miles: Reestablishing
Leadership In the Region

Traces of Soekarno’s brilliant discourse building such as the dichotomy between NEFO (New Emerging Forces) and OLDEFO (
Old Established Forces) in the Cold War era seemed to have also inspired today’s foreign policy. After Yudhoyono’s infamous line ‘a thousand friends, zero enemy’, the MoFA continued the legacy by bringing up the so-called ‘dynamic equilibrium’ to the table of our regional negotiations. Last year, chairing ASEAN, Indonesia also introduced the vision of ‘ASEAN community in a global community of nations’. These three jargons should, I wholeheartedly believe, be utilized to further empower Indonesia’s role in the global arena. Beyond this, Indonesia needs to bring up the equivalently important discourse of sustainability and human security as the main development agendas post-2015. Hundreds of years of civilization have taught me one thing: that the power of words is often undermined—as long as the country’s leaders commit to the discourses they initiated, it is not impossible that the international community would once again pay respect to our country’s determination and acknowledge our leadership in regards.

After all, the year 2014 should not only become a year of ‘democratic festivities’ where millions of Indonesian citizens will celebrate democracy by using their voting rights, but also a decisive period that will determine whether or not this country can unleash its predicted potentials. Having elaborated three of the most basic—not necessarily huge, but profound—policies that need to be catered in welcoming a greater development for the country, I would like to also emphasize the important role of youth as the upcoming decision-makers, entrepreneurs, as well as engineers of the country: the government needs to invest more in capacity building programs and educative projects. Shall these foundational aspects be successfully accomplished, I am more than confident that the nation can finally move on from their pseudo-pride of historical romanticism—and cherish the real thrill and honor of being an Indonesian.


[1] ‘About’, Open Government Partnership’s official website.
[2] Open Government Indonesia: Sebentang Titian Menuju Keterbukaan(Jakarta: Open Government Indonesia Secretariat, 2012)
[3] Masterplan: Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia Economic Development 2011-2025, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs,
Republic of Indonesia, 2011.
[4] Raoul Oberman et. al, The Archipelago Economy: Unleashing Indonesia’s Potential (Jakarta: McKinsey Global Institute, September 2012)


One Comment

  1. What a great great article.I think you have a more comprehensive helicopter view rather than our real current president hahaha. Have a greatsemester in Singapore and wish u all the best for G20 selection!!PS : Come back soon and coach us again!!!! :)


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