Indonesian new government has three priorities: First, there is the goal to increase productivity in the area of agriculture (particularly, food production). Second is the goal to increase energy production. The third goal involves the optimization of our maritime production.
World Report: H.E. Pres. Joko Widodo’s inaugural motto is, “work, work, work”. According to him, Indonesia has to work hard to face its historical challenges and move on the road of prosperity. What are your thoughts on the current administration’s ambitious plans for Indonesia?
Pres. Widodo reiterated his motto to the Ministers, the Members of the Cabinet, and the Governors of 34 provinces—“work hard, work hard, work hard”. This falls under the umbrella of his national vision. I agree with him. We really do need to work hard for a better Indonesia and improve our people’s quality of life.
Pres. Widodo believes in equitable developments that address socio-economic gaps and disparities. I believe that this is a very important message. It is good to push for economic growth and stimulate investment, but we should also make sure that everybody benefits from these endeavors. As we seek to promote higher productivity, we should also consider programs that empower our people, and open up opportunities for them.
Investment focus should be guided by the principles of sustainability, environment friendliness, and so on. We need the right kind of investments to strengthen our industries, without compromising our natural resources.
Rural development should be one of our priorities (as stated in His Excellency’s mission vision).
Pres. Widodo has asked us to “work hard”, but within a sound framework that enforces equitable development, economic and environmental sustainability, and empowerment (particularly those at the grassroots level). The goal of this is to have a stronger Indonesia that will continue to be stable in the long run.
Part of the changes the President sought to implement included the restructuring of the Cabinet. Can you comment on this?
Several changes have been made. For instance, we merged the Ministry of Forestry (MF) with the Ministry for Environment (ME) to put an end to the exploitation of our forests. It is a strategic move. It is now the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MEF).
As I have mentioned before, part of our vision is to get the right investments. We pursue the sort that does not compromise the environment. This does not only apply to forestry, but also fisheries and the like. We prefer strategic and selective forms of investment.
We have learned from our history. In the past, we used to sell 85% of our coal overseas. Meanwhile, our country does not have sufficient energy. The communities surrounding the mining areas did not have electricity. Our coal mining activities back then resulted to pollution and flooding, and it did not even truly benefit our local people. This is something that we seek to change.
We understand that the government has 3 top priorities.
Yes, it does. First, there is the goal to increase productivity in the area of agriculture (particularly, food production). Second is the goal to increase energy production. The third goal involves the optimization of our maritime production. Indonesia is comprised of about two-thirds of water. Our country has the second-longest coastal line in the world, yet it imports fresh fish. We need to make use of our maritime potential.
We need to further strengthen our infrastructure to support our various industries, including the agriculture and maritime sectors.
Speaking of long coastal lines, how would you assess the country’s potential for tourism?
Indonesia has a huge potential for tourism, yet we only have about 8 million foreign visitors. Singapore, on the other hand, has 16 million while Malaysia has 28 million and Thailand has 24 million. We need to ramp up our game and tap into the country’s natural advantage for tourism.
The government plans to fund its infrastructure projects by cutting fuel subsidies, thanks to the MP3EI. How would you comment on the feasibility of these leverages?
It is a plan to reallocate subsidies to more appropriate targets such as the people of the rural working class (e.g., fisherman, farmers, etc.). We are looking to reallocate these subsidies to more proper areas such as social development (i.e., health, education, etc.).
In a bid to promote the right kind of investments, Pres. Widodo announced the establishment of a one-stop shop to cater to all of the things needed to set up a business, from permits, to licenses and so on.
Yes, that is true. We have what is called the “sistem perizinan” which is the bureaucratic process in releasing the license. Pres. Widodo conducted a surprise inspection of Pelayanan Terpadu Satu Pintu (PTSP), our One-Stop Shop Investment Service and disclosed his intention of creating a more investment-friendly environment by eliminating red tape and simplifying the processing of business permits and licenses. PTSP falls under Badan Koordinasi Penanaman Modal (BKPM), the country’s investment coordinating board. This will be implemented at the level of the local government and the national government. We have the local investment coordinating board and BKPM.
During the APEC forum in China, Pres. Widodo invited Chinese companies to be more involved in the construction of your seaports, railways and toll roads. Would you like to send the same message to British investors?
There was no special message to any specific country. The invitation was extended because China was the host of the forum. I know Pres. Widodo. He is willing to strengthen our business relationship with other countries, but as I have said before, it all boils down to getting the right investments—sustainable, high quality and viable investments. That is our message to the international market. They are all welcome, provided that they set up the right kind of business, or offer the right kind of products and services.
What role do you see the British playing in terms of helping Indonesia pursue more value-added products and services, as the country strives for higher agricultural productivity and food security?
They are more than welcome to participate. The idea is for us to share a vision of what we mean to accomplish.
Given the size of its population, food security continues to be a priority for Indonesia. Right now we have about 250 million people, and this increases annually. We need to make sure that we have ample food production—enough to support everyone in the country.
As with all our interviews, we would like to know more about the man behind the organization. How do you feel about your appointment as Minister?
To be honest, I never imagined that I would get this position. In fact, we never discussed it till the last minute, when it was announced to the public. When Pres. Widodo entrusted me with this job, it was an unexpected honor. I trust and respect our President. I will work doubly hard to do my job and meet his (and the nation’s) expectations.
Even as early as 4 years ago, I already saw Pres. Widodo’s potential for presidency. I saw how driven and committed he was in his previous office, and I just knew that he could do so much for the country.
He is a special figure that could move our nation to a new era. He keeps a low profile, but his modesty, warmth and determination serve to inspire. He is a very good listener, and open-minded enough to consider suggestions. In terms of our relationship, there is good chemistry. I feel that it is my responsibility to support and protect His Excellency.