Challenges, or perhaps demands, that Indonesia should play a more active role in the global scene have been increasingly heard lately. To such demands, it is most probably that many Indonesians have high expectation to see their country to be in the significant place of world arena.
Even the ordinary person on the street would be proud if this status could be achieved.
Thus, the question is not on whether Indonesia should play a more active global role, but how, and when?
A methodology worth considering in answering these compelling questions is perhaps “foresighting”. By definition, foresighting is aimed at investigating how institutions identify, anticipate and manage disruptions and prepare for an uncertain future (Rohrbeck and Gemunden, 2008).
If the foresighting method is applied, at the first stage it must be simulated that in the future, let’s say in 2020, Indonesia would already be one of the significant or dominant players in global political-economic arena.
If we derive this exercise from the current context, let us first assume that the significant global players in 2020 would be the United States (US), the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK), Japan and emerging economies including China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
One simple question is, what makes these countries the most likely candidates? Is it their political stature? Probably not. If one of the indicators of global political power is a role in a prominent global political body such as the UN Security Council, it would be only the US, UK, Russia, France and China.
If the indicator is a role in mediating the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would be only the US, EU and Russia. What about Japan, India, Brazil and South Africa? Are they among either of these categories? I am afraid the answer is still no.
Based on the above notions, the most possible reason why countries could become the dominant powers of 2020 is their economic power. The US, EU, UK and Japan undoubtedly have been powerful economies in recent decades, and most possibly will remain at that stage in decades to come.
China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa have been increasingly recognized as the most promising new economic powers. Terms such as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) have frequently emerged in the press in recent years, acknowledging the economic potential these countries possess.
China has often been voiced as the most likely challenger to the US as the next global super power (if the US economy cannot be managed appropriately).
Based on that logic, it can be argued that the most challenging factor in Indonesia’s aim to become a significant player is how to maximize its relevant strengths in gaining economic power. The next question is how to measure Indonesia’s economic power?
A simple indicator as to whether Indonesia has gained economic power is its GDP purchasing power parity (PPP) and per capita income. With its current PPP of US$968.5 billion, Indonesia is ranked 16th in the world (according to the CIA The World Factbook, 2009). Not bad. But, Indonesia’s per capita income is around $4,000, which ranks 155th. Based on that figure, it is hard to say Indonesia has economic power.
In short, Indonesia should really work hard to achieve economic power if it wishes to gain a dominant position in the global arena. It would be difficult to imagine that Indonesia could exert all its power if at the same time a number of its people were still suffering, for example, from malnutrition.
Put simply, the elementary and secondary needs of the people at home should be met first before assisting other people around the world. This is merely a matter of prioritization.
If we have agreed that the economy is the most important factor, the next question is what kind of economic power does Indonesia want to achieve? In this regard, I fully share the views of several scholars that what Indonesia needs is not merely economic growth, but welfare. Indonesia’s economic growth can perhaps be materialized or has even been achieved in recent years. Nonetheless, history shows that inequality often comes hand in hand with economic growth.
Economic welfare shall indeed be pursued since, in theory, it covers the majority of the population and does not merely target the capital holders or middle class. Economic welfare is also seen as being able to manage the main challenges such as public healthcare, education and employment.
To conclude, if Indonesia could refocus its vision and strategies and work on how to achieve economic welfare, it would likely become a global economic power in due course. And once this has been achieved, even without declaring itself a dominant player in the global political-economic arena, it would be difficult to deny that Indonesia deserves to be there by 2020.
Source: Yasmi Adriansyah (The Jakarta Post)