KEYNOTE SPEECH OF THE AMBASSADOR OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA
H. E. MR. T. M. HAMZAH THAYEB
AT THE ‘STRATEGIC CONTRIBUTION FOR INDONESIA’ SEMINAR
LEEDS, 8 SEPTEMBER 2012
(delivered by the Education Attaché)
Distinguished Speakers, Participants and Future Leaders of Indonesia,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalamualaykum wr. wb.
It is a special privilege and pleasure for me to welcome and address all participants of this seminar on ‘Strategic Contribution for Indonesia’.
The theme reminds me of what President Kennedy famously said half a century ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” And my friends, you are all well placed to bear such a spirit as history has shown us that great Indonesians who went overseas to study had become reformers, prime movers for change, for freedom and for modernity upon their return home. We have seen it in such exemplary giants as Dr. Sam Ratulangi, Mr. Muhammad Hatta, Mr. Sjahrir, and many others.
I therefore wish to commend that you have taken this particular theme, which coincides neatly with an important junction or era in Indonesia’s recent and modern history. And that is the era of Indonesia as one of the most prominent global emerging markets; as the third largest and fully functioning democracy in the world where democratic practice and values find its happy medium in our rich culture, tradition, religiosity and modernity; as a leading protagonist of order and peace in the region and beyond.
Those achievements were not given to us nor did they come overnight. Rather, they were gained through a long and arduous process involving everyone in the country.
They are the fruits of our nation’s hard labour and sweat.
That not withstanding, I am acutely aware that some people, both within and outside Indonesia, are still in doubt of the country’s progress today, hence, taking a more pessimistic view on Indonesia’s tomorrow. They still like to think of Indonesia as a country full of rampant and wide ranging problems, from crimes to corruption, from environmental degradation to food and energy provisions, from economic development to social justice for all, and from political tussles to secessionism—all happening at both central and local levels. They, in my opinion, tend to see Indonesia in a rather narrow short-term snapshot viewing mode.
And in the age of democracy, all contending views are welcome and in fact, everybody’s right to express their minds in a free, peaceful and responsible manner is fully guaranteed by the Constitution.
But I am an optimist, like many amongst our people. And for an optimist, the only way is to move forward, to see problems as challenges to be dealt with and to seize opportunities behind any crises. I view things both in snapshots as well as in medium and long-term trends. I trust that as well-educated Indonesians, you all analyse and see things objectively with a view to seek solutions to whatever problems we face.
And I have strong reasons to see how Indonesia in the longer run can do better than we do today.
As a nation. we have three particular modalities to travel from good to better and from better to great. They are: resilience, geo-politics/strategy, and the people.
First, let me talk about resilience.
For the last fifteen years, the Government and the people of Indonesia have undergone a difficult and deafening political transformation—known by many of us as reformasi. We braved the thirty two years of authoritarian rule with determination, flair and common sense just to emerge as a democratic society that we are so proud of today.
This year, as we celebrate our 67th anniversary of Independence Day, we are reminded by the three-and-a-half century bloody struggle against the shackles of colonialism and imperialism—the highest form of human rights violation. Our freedom exacted millions of Indonesian souls. And as a young nation, we endured political polarisation of the Cold War and even defied all odds to support the freedom of others, as clearly stipulated in our 1945 Constitution.
And even before that, our forefathers had enormously built political entities in the forms of kingdoms and sultanates that were not only militarily powerful in the region, but also served as beacons of knowledge and wisdom. We have seen their greatness and we witness today in their temples and buildings, in their manuscripts, and in their arts.
Back to modern Indonesia, in just fifteen years, we have made many fundamental changes, creating new institutions, enacting new laws and regulations which guarantee rights and freedom for our people and implementing good governance at all levels.
We are now consolidating our democracy and we are committed to continue with our reform at all levels of life, with a view to modernize the country, increase the welfare of the people and ensure progress for everyone.
Today, we are reaping the dividends of our hard-won democracy in which all of us benefit from political stability and begin to enjoy the ensuing welfare as fruits of our vast development programs.
Despite the global economic downturn, it is heartening that our economy is growing positively by 6.3 percent last year and we are aiming to maintain that growth rate this year. The Government has also rolled out various infrastructure projects all over the country in order to refurbish those that are dilapidated while also expanding and building new ones in order to accommodate our fast-growing economy and increase the welfare of our people.
On the diplomatic side, various constructive contributions that Indonesia is making at the bilateral, regional and international levels have continued to strengthen the country’s international stature over the years.
That said, we must not be self-complacent with all these achievements. While sustaining our positive growth, justice and welfare, we must ensure that our development goes unhindered and that everyone in all corners of Indonesia can share as much benefits of national development as possible. We are doing it not only for our generation of today, but also for our children of tomorrow.
There are still many challenges which we, as a nation, must address. Corruption is still a problem which should be resolved together by the Government and the people. Environmental concerns and sustainable development must be promoted to become a way of life for everyone. Hate crimes and intolerance are an abomination which should be abolished all-together from the country. Poverty reduction and welfare improvement still remains a challenge to be overcome.
The challenges are huge and varied, but they are not insurmountable, especially when we are so resilient.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My second ingredient of optimism is Indonesia’s geo-politics and geo-strategy.
It is often said that we may all see at the same geographical map, but we actually see different worlds. They are many worlds on the very same atlas or globe.
There is a political world, where different political systems co-exist or compete with one another. In this world, we witness inter- and intra-state conflicts and even wars as frequently as cooperation and collaboration.
There is an economic world, where rich countries continue to maintain their long-time supremacy, while the poor ones must struggle hard for their daily sustenance. And between the two, the emerging economies perspire to catch up with the developed ones and avoid being slipped down to the bottom under-developed.
There is also a social world, where communities and societies of different religious, cultural, and social backgrounds continue to either strengthen or weaken their social fabrics.
These are some of the existing worlds that we can visually illustrate on the map—just to name a few.
And the question now is what has Indonesia to do with these worlds?
Our strategically located position on the globe, coupled with its vast natural resources of all sorts, bring us both opportunities and challenges. On the opportunity side, Indonesia is situated in a promising region of Southeast Asia, as part of the larger East Asia and the Asia Pacific.
With the thick economic dark clouds hanging across the Eurozone and the post-financial-hit slow recovery in the US, East Asia is dubbed to be the world’s 21st century economic powerhouse. And it is rightfully so particularly if we look at how economies of East Asia grow consistently rapidly, resulting in its increasing economic clouts the world over.
As the World Bank Update in May 2012 suggests, East Asia grew by 8.2 per cent last year while stricken poverty continued to fall across the region with the number of people living on less than US$2 a day expected to decrease to 513 million by 2012 from 565 million in 2010. Furthermore, the Bank also estimated that most East Asian economies are “well positioned to weather renewed volatility” resulting from the likely economic shocks from Europe, thanks to its resilient domestic demand; current account surpluses and high levels of reserves; coupled with well-capitalized banking system.
Indonesia, being the largest economy of Southeast Asia, can offer profitable production base for investors and industries, not only due to our huge markets but also to the materials we can provide. We have been at the environmental service for the world since we have around 30 per cent of global rain forests.
On a more optimistic note, I am pleased to amplify the assessment that the global world product will rise by 6.3 per cent, from around US$67 trillion in 2005 to around US$420 trillion in 2050. Asia’s share will be about US$220 trillion. China and India, given their massive population – and growth trajectory – will undoubtedly command a large share of this pie. But consider another rising regional power Indonesia. Today, it has a US$ 550 billion economy. If it grows at 6-7 per cent in real terms, and 13-14 per cent in nominal terms, then it is looking at an economy worth US$6-7 trillion in 20 years’ time — the size of the current Japanese economy. If history is a linear progression, in 2050, Indonesia might well be a US$40 trillion economy.
Yet, on the challenge side, we must never overlook the fact that our region is also home to the world’s many flares and most dangerous hot-spots. Tensions continue unabated in the Korean Peninsula—the only remnant of political and military scrimmages of the Cold War. We have cross-strait issues between Beijing and Taipei. We are getting concerned with sparks that are taking place in the South China Sea. And Indonesia—along with Malaysia and Singapore—are also littoral states to one of the most important chokepoints in the world—The Strait of Malacca. And in the future, competition over energy, food, and other precious natural resources will not get any softer.
All these tell us that failure to overcome the lingering and protracted disputes and conflicts in this part of the world would only alter our current path of economic progress and development, and spell utter and assured disasters.
But Indonesia remains steady in its position to be part of the global solution to international problems. We are steadfast in ensuring Southeast Asia as region of cooperation. We will explore all possible diplomatic initiatives to strengthen cooperation in East Asia and in the Asia Pacific through various avenues.
Like in the past, we still manage to transform our strategy of national resilience into a regional resilience of which the two are mutually reinforcing.
In short, we work with our friends, big or small, major or middle powers to create the geo-politics of cooperation and oppose the geo-politics of competition that divides many nations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am all too aware of the political adagium that all foreign policy begins at home. And I wish to add to it that foreign policy also ends at home. Critics may say that all those achievements do not reflect the harsh reality at home, featured by imminent social, economic, political and legal plagues.
Further debates into this matter will be of critical importance to us so we can assess ourselves and craft a better strategy at home and towards the international arena.
But let me underline that all those potentials I have alluded to earlier—our national outlook and new geo-politics—can only register true benefits if the people possess a strong vision and robust knowledge to transform them into real political and economic currencies.
And last but surely not the least, here comes my third ingredient for optimism: the people. And in my view, this is actually the most important source of optimism.
Look at you, and the many million others who are like you: young, smart and bright, well-educated and full of energy, creative and determined to make changes and progresses. Just looking at you and I am confident about the future of Indonesia.
Today, millions of free Indonesians receive proper education as part of a systematic educational deliberation from basic to the higher levels. This was not the case a generation or two ago. In my father’s day, there were merely few thousands Indonesians who were able to receive higher education. And I do not think that even hundreds of Indonesians ever received higher educations from Indonesia’s former colonial masters during my grandfather’s era. At the dawn of the last century, only a handful bright commoners or closely connected aristocrats entered universities. Today, universities are full of eager and not-too-eager students.
And with the education sector receiving over 20 per cent in our national budget—as stipulated in the Constitution—we are investing on people, hence, well placed to even go further in the global competition.
Yes, I understand that we must catch up with other countries that produce many more graduates than Indonesia.
Yes, I know that we must continue to prioritise Research and Development to enhance competitiveness.
And yes, I do understand that education system must and shall be improved over time allowing us to produce not only smart graduates—but good ones in heart and mind. And this is the greatest challenge of all.
Ours is not yet a perfect system if you look through a snapshot viewing mode, but it is a far better one in a long-term yardstick.
Distinguished Participants and Colleagues,
The questions of the day for us to ponder upon are the following: What can we do to make sure that Indonesia remains on the right track? What role can we play to contribute to the betterment of Indonesia? What needs to be done to progress from good to great? These are the questions that will emerge times and over.
There is a quote that I think befits this moment: ‘When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.’
Following that, let us seize upon this moment and make the future happen for Indonesia.
Nonetheless, let me remind you all about your topic: Strategic contribution to Indonesia. Before we can effectively fare our share, we must think and identify thoroughly of what Indonesia and many Indonesians need at the moment, in the medium in the longer terms. And I do not have “the crystal ball” to answer these million dollar questions nor do I have a supernatural ability to look into the future. Instead, this would require a DEEP and HONEST understanding from each individual on the nature of our beloved Indonesia and an immense energy of the mass to form solid networking and mobilise resources.
In other words, this would require a joint communal effort. And this is how you can help shape the future of Indonesia as part of your real contribution.
Let me share one good example of how you, as Indonesians living abroad, can contribute for Indonesia.
A few months ago, a colleague of mine, Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal in Washington DC, supported by all other Indonesian Embassies around the globe, had the initiative to hold the first-ever Congress of Indonesian Diaspora in Los Angeles. Through that Congress, we found out that currently there are more than 6 million Indonesians living outside Indonesia. Annually, they send around US$ 7 billion as remittance back to Indonesia, which is bigger than the Government’s budget for education in Indonesia. In general, Indonesian diaspora are better educated, more open-minded, resourceful and, most importantly, they want to do something for their country.
The Government under President Yudhoyono, responded favourably and the President himself expressed his appreciation and acknowledged that every Indonesian diaspora, individually, is an important person of Indonesian blood and culture overseas.
Today, I see an excellent example of those who can help shape the future, which are the young Indonesian students who organise, participate and contribute to this seminar.
Let me share my fervent hope that today’s seminar will allow you to find ways and means to contribute your skills and abilities for Indonesia.
Your fruits of discussion today must not remain merely a paper, but resonate beyond the walls of your conference room to become real concrete and tangible deeds. And one of the deeds is for you to succeed and excel at your study. As such, it will open doors and opportunities for you to develop yourself better in your future line of work.
Of course, it will be great to have you back in Indonesia. But I always believe that good seeds will produce good fruits wherever it is planted. Waste no opportunity whenever and wherever it is presented to you, and Insya Allah, I trust you will always be a good Indonesian and the nation’s ambassador to the world.
With that, may Allah SWT, God the Almighty bless our nation and I wish you all the very best in your endeavour.
By iterating Basmalah, “Bismillahirrahmanirahim”, I am pleased to declare the seminar on ‘Strategic Contribution for Indonesia’ open.
Thank you very much.
Wassalamualaykum wr. wb.
T. M. Hamzah Thayeb
Leeds, UK. 8 September 2012
1. The World Bank, Capturing New Sources of Growth, World Bank East Asia and Pacific Economic Update 2012,Vol.1 (USA: Washington DC, May 2012), p. 1.
2. Gita Wirjawan, Indonesia: A Black Swan?, Speech delivered at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, 6 July 2009,
Catatan Kantor Atdik KBRI London: