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Promoting Economic and Social Progress: Indonesia Economic Forum 2018

NEWS | 10 December 2018

Fifth year of annual conference calls for a new agenda as the country heads into election season, expands economic hubs.

This year IEF focused on setting a new five-year agenda, both to coincide with the fifth year of the conference and the country’s upcoming elections in 2019. Photo by Raditya Fadilla/NOW!JAKARTA

“We live in an era of connectivity. Not just in terms of physical connectively via roads, bridges, and airports but also digital connectivity where human interactions with other humans and machines are being redefined.” begins Shoeb Kagda, Founder of Indonesia Economic Forum. 

The Indonesia Economic Forum, the country’s premier business conference, returned for a fifth year this November. The topic this year focused on setting a new five-year agenda, both to coincide with the fifth year of the conference and the country’s upcoming elections in 2019.

With connectivity, via technology, set to drive innovation and economic development, the topic is certainly quite the buzz in recent forums. 

Gita Wirjawan, Founder and Head of Ancora Group (and former Minister of Trade) spoke about the next step in development: multi-growth hubs and the need for advancing the entire country through various economic hubs including Batam, Palembang, Medan and Makassar, all of which are growing at rapid pace. He noted the energy and optimism in these areas and intoned the audience to take up the challenge of looking beyond Java. “With great change comes great opportunity” he said. 

2019 Presidential Candidate Prabowo Subianto attended Indonesia Economic Forum.

Prabowo Subianto, one of the presidential candidates in the upcoming elections was guest of honour and spoke about the challenges in Indonesia. Noting various statistics on Indonesia’s performance in education, technology, etc. During his speech, he encouraged the gathering to vote for parties that prevent mismanagement of funds and who would work toward improving the lives of all Indonesians.

Ilham Habibie, in his speech noted that the need of the hour was to develop solutions that can be implemented and improve the lives of people. He too, called for economic hubs to be spread out, thereby reducing the pressure on Jakarta to deliver. “For economic growth we need to be more competitive, we need R&D in the country, we cannot simply just buy tech from outside,” he said.  He also advocated for establishing a nationwide programme to develop vocational skills. 

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim joined the discussion via video call and spoke on the ASEAN’s new paradigm. Noting that the region had the strength and vibrancy for robust economic growth, he noted that it was imperative that the region remained important and attractive as a destination for foreign investment. Noting that the current trade war between the U.S and China had positive ramifications for the ASEAN, he called for using the ASEAN as a base to increase exports, and focus on manufacturing technology and services. 

Shinta Kamdani, a prominent businesswoman in the country, was also a speaker and talked about the need for the ASEAN to take charge with respect to trade, especially given the U.S administration’s protectionist policies. 

Indonesian businessman and vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno also appeared at Indonesian Economic Forum.

In economic development, education is key and in the forum on education, panellists discussed the importance of developing critical thinking skills. Presented by Extramarks Indonesia, an organisation focused on digital education, the panel consisted of leaders from the Ministry of Education, and related entities who discussed the need to improve access for education and using technology to help students and teachers. Ilham Habibie, who attended the session, noted that the commodification of technology has led to a demonetisation of technology. Empowering teachers, therefore, was key to development in the education sector here. 

Thomas Lembong, Chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board closed the session noting that social progress is equally important to economic growth. Economic competition, technology growth and a focus on social policy are all imperative, he noted. 

The main take away from the conference this year, as described in the published literature, was that connecting the country physically, digitally and economically must be the top agenda for the nation over the next five years. Institutions must connect and share ideas: businesses must collaborate across regions, and entrepreneurs, especially tech start-ups must join forces to sale up. 

The process has begun under the current administration but it is imperative that it be continued, regardless of who takes the reins following the 2019 elections. Ultimately, connectivity and innovation will be the key driver.