Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Assessing Indonesia’s foreign policy in 2012

The Foreign Ministry has explained that Indonesian foreign policy in 2012 would manage and promote change in order to establish common stability, security and prosperity at regional and global levels. What are the capabilities and challenges for Indonesia in conducting its foreign policy in 2012?

Indonesia, in my opinion, has the capability as a mediating power sufficient to create and preserve common stability, security and prosperity. Indonesia has a coordinating role, foreign policy competence and can respond to the regional and global challenges. However, Indonesia also has challenges in determining and improving its foreign policy in the regional and global arena, such as in the complexity of domestic situations.

Indonesia is known as a mediating power among developing countries. This means that Indonesia has the power to mediate between developed and developing countries and to negotiate for a collective position among developing countries, such as on developmental and environmental issues. Indonesia’s position is central among countries in regional and global forums. For example, Indonesia holds a crucial role in providing a balance in Southeast Asia in specific and in the Asia-
Pacific region.

Indonesia is also recognized for its role as a coordinating actor within Southeast Asia. It can use its influence to pursue and coordinate all ASEAN countries in supporting the realization of the ASEAN Community and in actively shaping the coherence of ASEAN in international fora.

The goal of Indonesia is to create a dynamic equilibrium based on the principle of the Axis of Symmetrical Interests in the Southeast Asia region and the East Asia region.

Indonesia can influence ASEAN countries to engage with key players within these regions and persuade them to respect common rules, regulations and policies that may provide collective security and foster economic development in these regions. For example, Indonesia has contributed positively to the evolving regional architecture, such as the ASEAN Community and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Indonesia has foreign policy competence to pursue its goal in regional and international arenas. Indonesia has 130 representative offices worldwide, which consists of 95 embassies, three permanent representatives, 29 consulate general offices and three consulate offices. Indonesia plays an active role in prominent regional and multilateral organizations, such as ASEAN, G-20 and EAS.

Indonesia has non-state actors, such as NGOs and the business community, which have linked internationally with their partners and networks outside the country. This foreign policy competence can support Indonesian diplomacy.

Indonesia has faced several challenges that may shape and influence Indonesia’s capabilities.

First, there is a lack of coordination among ministries and state institutions in Indonesia. There is an overlap between central and local governments within Indonesia when they conduct their various foreign economic policies in inviting foreign investors. Bear in mind, Indonesian foreign policy is not solely dominated by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. The role of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry is to coordinate Indonesian diplomacy.

As a coordinator, the Foreign Ministry needs support from other ministries and local governments in order to formulate and conduct Indonesia’s foreign policy in an effective way. In order to manage good coordination among ministries and local governments, effective institutional machinery within all stakeholders related to Indonesia’s diplomacy is a must.

Second, there is a need to realize the economic development which can be felt by most Indonesians. In 2011, economic growth in Indonesia reached 6.5 percent based on macroeconomic measurement.

However, this economic growth depends more on consumer spending and financial investments rather than the production of goods and services.

There are some challenges for Indonesia, such as the potential high inflation rate, the total number of unemployed people being 8.02 million in 2011, the total number of poor people being around 30 million based on the government’s poverty line of people with incomes below Rp 233,740 per month. The economic situation above will make the government focus more on domestic affairs rather than foreign issues.

Third, Indonesia has yet to deal with rampant corruption scandals, such as Bank Century and the bribery scandals involving the last 26th SEA Games building project, among others. The Corruption Eradication Commission has attempted to investigate and prosecute such corruption cases through the courts. Still, the score of Indonesia’s Corruption Perception Index in 2011 was rated 3, putting the country at 100th position out of 183 nations.

It means that Indonesia still needs to improve its law enforcement against corruption. Such an unfavorable situation will seriously impact the efforts by all Indonesia’s representative offices in promoting the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI),
designed to attract foreign investment to Indonesia.

We will see how the government of Indonesia can demonstrate its capabilities and face challenges in a balanced way.

By Beginda Pakpahan, lecturer at the University of Indonesia and a researcher with the University of Edinburgh, UK.

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