Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vision 2050: Preparing for Indonesia and Wider Asia on Top of the World

As Asean leaders meet in Bali this week, the specter of a totally different and more powerful Indonesia descended on my mind: a nation with more than 400 million people and the planet’s third-largest market after China and India by 2050.

By that time, an additional 15 million new scholars with international expertise and perspective will mingle with a global community of professionals in this country. They will work along with expatriates from developed and newly industrialized countries who will stream into Southeast Asia’s largest country, which, as of 2015, will feature a borderless economy. Thousands of multinational companies with the world’s best practices will become the benchmark for local institutions. The nation’s work culture will change significantly as a result.

On the multilateral front, interactions with and among regional economic and political groupings will change the emphasis and perhaps even character of Indonesia’s foreign policy to the extent that a transformation of our foreign policy agenda — more assertive and pro-active — will be unavoidable.

With their huge markets, China, India and Indonesia will represent the pillars of Asia’s regional economic triangle in South, East and Southeast Asia. This region, home to the world’s second- and third-largest economies (Japan and China), will represent more than half of the planet’s population, an enormous magnet for business and investment activities.

Indonesia will by then have become a very influential member of the G-20 and will have even chaired this prestigious group’s summit. It will have played a similar role in the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement and abdicated G-77 membership, elevated onto the plateau of newly-industrialized countries.

Two decades before that, by 2030, according to the National Economic Committee (KEN) that comprises the country’s top economists and business leaders, the Indonesian population will stand at 285 million, per capita income will soar to $18,000 and gross domestic product will rise to $5.1 trillion, making Indonesia one of the world’s five largest economies.

Even by 2020, according to the committee’s optimistic predictions, Indonesia will have elevated itself to an upper-middle income country from its current lower-middle income status.

For that to become reality, an average economic growth rate of 8.5 percent is needed through 2030, with an average inflation rate of 3 percent and annual population growth of 1.1 percent. (For comparison’s sake, growth over the last seven years has averaged 5.6 percent, and inflation for the last eight years has averaged almost 8 percent.)

By 2030, international tourist arrivals will have reached 40 million per annum with accumulative spending of $80 billion, making Indonesia one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Many prestigious foreign universities will establish branches here and Indonesian universities will become part of Universitas 21, a network of universities around the world, to capitalize on vast scientific and technological resources as well as industrial linkages. This will lead to greater numbers of technological inventions and innovations to propel industrial growth and expansion.

In the real sector, Indonesia will host various industrial hubs where an increasing number of globally-connected corporations build their competitive bases. From there they will jump into the wider Asia-Pacific common market to come.

This exciting scenario requires a totally different quality of national leadership and human resources in Asean states and other regional countries. Most if not all Asean members will rise above the status of developing nations, and the regional economic web will represent the world’s most dynamic center of growth and industrialization.

What kind of regional leaders will bring this about? Asean needs to anticipate this more seriously. It is not enough just to concentrate on economic integration efforts, because regional integration entails other strategic interests as well, and the Southeast Asian group must choose decisively either to remain intact or be split apart by each’s own economic and security pursuits.

In the case of Indonesia, upgrading the quality of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), the House of Representatives (DPR), the presidency and the cabinet is highly necessary. We need not just politicians and diplomats, but global strategists with a firm grasp of statesmanship.

As of 2014, therefore, selection and election of DPD and DPR members, cabinet ministers, the president, vice president and key officials in strategic institutions can no longer be based only on political considerations.

Were that the choice, Indonesia would surely shrink into its own misfortunes and watch itself be overtaken by the waves of change already lapping at its shores.

The country’s largest failure since the reform era began in 1998 is its inability to manage change. Since then, only state structure has changed — the nation’s mentality, behavior and socio-political culture have not.

One simple proof is the inability to eradicate corruption. Jail terms do not make criminals repent because the punishment only deals with deeds, failing to address the bad culture that spawned the deed. All the noise about fighting corruption is nothing but reaction to the crimes, with not enough consideration of preemption and prevention.

Because of the deep-seated nature of this culture of corruption, Indonesia needs a different generation of national leaders: professionals and experts in all layers of the national structure who act as visionary global citizens, not inward-looking politicians with transactional intent.

Without fundamental changes, opportunism in the political arena will continue to spoil the nation’s journey to full-fledged democracy. The mass media must combat this on every front.

We need to challenge the leaders of all the political parties, especially those aiming to participate in 2014 legislative and presidential elections. Are they really aware that the kind of Indonesia they wish to lead in the future is totally different from what they see today?

Are they aware that the world in which this country will exist over the next two to four decades is totally different from what they presently know?

Inward-looking political tendencies must not be allowed to sell in the new Indonesia now in the making. We need high-caliber, technologically savvy, globally connected leaders with visionary minds to correctly position this nation within the global community.

What is still missing amid rising domestic economic capacity is heightened assertiveness on the global front.

Sukarno and Hatta were able to lay the foundation for the establishment of a world bloc — the Nonaligned Movement — and perpetuated their names in history as global leaders of their time.

Suharto was among the founders of Asean and was instrumental in keeping Southeast Asia as a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality (Zopfan). During his reign, Indonesia played an influential role in creating peace and stability in this region.

After that, Indonesia’s proud international diplomatic standing collapsed, and there is little reason to be proud of our diplomatic innovations other than co-chairmanship of the Paris International Conference on Cambodia.

The Asean Summit in Bali reminds me of the group’s establishment in 1967, but the real agenda at the end of the day concerns economic integration and geostrategic mapping for the future.

Governments issue policies, and economic actors take action. They are state-owned enterprises of the participating countries and the private sector players therein. Foreign ministers create the umbrella and economic ministers substantiate it. But the number of documents produced by Asean meetings should not be bigger than the projects realized.

Over the past few years, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has launched a series of initiatives through Asean summits and G-20 forums. He must go beyond this, and his successor must be able to continue and upgrade these initiatives to a level befitting the presidency of a rising global power.

By Pitan Daslani senior political correspondent for BeritaSatu Media Holdings.

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