Indonesia to do more to help others

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo with (from left) Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Coordinating Security Minister Wiranto (partly hidden), Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung and State Secretariat Minister Pratikno yesterday urged his diplomats to do mor
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo with (from left) Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Coordinating Security Minister Wiranto (partly hidden), Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung and State Secretariat Minister Pratikno yesterday urged his diplomats to do more to help the country fulfil its economic potential.PHOTO: INDONESIA MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Jokowi launches new front in diplomacy; analysts say he's prepared to be world leader

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said yesterday it was time his country stopped receiving aid, and instead lend a hand to help others.

To this end, Jakarta is setting up an agency to manage its international aid programmes, starting with a budget of 1 trillion rupiah (S$97 million).

It has also contributed to peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan and is campaigning for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2019-20.

As home to more than 260 million people and the country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia has a responsibility to be part of the solution to global issues, Mr Joko told a gathering of top Indonesian diplomats, with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi present.

"I have asked the Foreign Minister... to continue to ensure Indonesia's contribution to world peace," the President added.

Mr Joko's call to his ambassadors to step up Indonesia's contributions on the global stage comes two weeks after his five-nation visit to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Analysts noted the trip helped Indonesia revive strategic and economic links, and signalled Mr Joko was prepared to be a world leader - a role his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sought to play in his 10 years in office.

Mr Joko, who took office in October 2014, was largely preoccupied with domestic issues such as ensuring economic growth and infrastructure developments during the initial years of his administration.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies' executive director Philips Vermonte saw Mr Joko's remarks as a move to establish Indonesia as a middle power.

"It is true that Indonesia is still struggling for the welfare of its own people, but this is not hindering its contribution to the rest of the world," he told The Straits Times.

Indonesia has recently tried to do its part to help resolve conflicts in Palestine and Myanmar's Rakhine state, and Mr Joko visited a refugee camp for displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh last month. Yesterday, Mr Joko said he saw how rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, which Indonesia supported, had led to renewed unity there, while efforts against injustice and oppression in places like Palestine must continue.

"The Palestinian President calls Indonesia a true friend, the President of Afghanistan expressed appreciation for Indonesia's contribution to peacekeeping," he said. "Indonesian diplomacy has also facilitated communication between Myanmar and Bangladesh on issues at their borders."

Mr Joko also told his envoys more needs to be done to help the country fulfil its economic potential.

For instance, although Indonesia is a member of the Group of 20 nations, its exports still lag behind its neighbours, he added.

"Indonesia's economic growth in 2017 was 5.07 per cent, we are targeting 5.4 per cent in 2018," he said. "If we are consistent we can raise our GDP, and in 2045 become the fourth largest economy."

But to continue its progress as a global player, Indonesia must shake off an inferiority complex against other nations, Mr Joko said.

Urging his diplomats to stand tall among other nations, he said: "Indonesia is a great country. It is inappropriate for us to feel inferior in the presence of other countries."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesia to do more to help others'. Print Edition | Subscribe