Is Jokowi the next icon for Inclusive Development in Southeast Asia?

Updated: Aug 9

Weeks before he was elected as the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, (popularly known as Jokowi), met with the National Research Council or the Dewan Riset Nasional to exchange ideas on accelerating development and improving science and technology in the country.

The Universities and Councils Network on Innovation for Inclusive Development (UNIID-SEA), a project of the Ateneo School Government that brings together research councils in Southeast Asia to support initiatives for inclusive development, talked to its member from Indonesia, Dr. Iding Chaidir. Chaidir, the secretary of the National Research Council, shared to us what Jokowi proposed to do to strengthen Indonesia’s pursuit of inclusive development.

What are the challenges that Jokowi faces in fostering inclusive development?

Chaidir: Corruption is a problem. Jokowi is from outside the old regime. He has a chance to formulate a good, clean government structure. He comes from an entrepreneurial background; his approach to economic growth, economic development will be different. A lot of people has hope for Jokowi and many voted for him; this elections had a big turnout of voters. But many also support Prabowo, who is the son-in-law of Suharto. The elections were very close. It will be a challenge for Jokowi to handle people who still believe in business-as-usual.

But Jokowi has a program called the “mental revolution” where everybody is encouraged to change his mentality. Under this program, there will be a curriculum change in elementary school and high school where 60 percent of the content will be about culture. He wants to promote a mentality of discipline and social awareness. Some people say it’s “communism” but it’s actually just mental revolution.

For inclusive development, there is the challenge of how to alleviate poverty. Jokowi has a program on maritime economic environment, where he wants to concentrate on fishery. He also wants to focus on agriculture.

How does Jokowi intend to work with you in achieving inclusive development?

Chaidir: We met him and Prabowo 2 weeks ago. The National Research Council invited them for a debate. We gave them some inputs. There is limited budget for science and technology, research and development – a mere .08 percent of the national budget. They proposed to increase it to one percent. That’s a good indicator. This one percent has been proposed years ago, however. But we are hopeful that this government will actually do it.

We mentioned that there were also too many organizations. We want to make a more effective, efficient structure. We also proposed to integrate the bodies into a consortium.

The members of the consortium will be the academe, business and government. We can serve as a meeting point for all sectors. We formulate for them which programs can work or can be done for any areas. The new materials aim to have social acceptability.

Under the term of then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, what were the problems in creating inclusive development and how could Jokowi address them?

Chaidir: Under SBY, the approach is too technical, it was an engineering approach. He is into building infrastructure. He launched a new infrastructure program in Eastern Indonesia. But it does not solve the problem of inequality. There is no trickle-down effect.

Jokowi’s approach is to develop fishery. They want to integrate small fishermen into big companies. He already has the ideas. He’s famous for being down –to-earth, for willing to come to slum areas, to the farmers and fishermen. That’s inclusive. Jokowi has the inclusive approach, he just needs to be supported in implementing his programs.

How can Jokowi sustain Indonesia’s significant role in driving development in ASEAN?

Chaidir: Jokowi should establish better mechanisms in terms of social development. He has vice president Jusuf Kalla, who has more experience in dealing with ASEAN, to consult with.

Any other advice to the new president in pursuing inclusive development?

Chaidir: Include social scientists in creating programs.

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