Jokowi’s Second Term: More Domestic than International

What can we expect from Indonesia in Jokowi’s second term? In this post, I summarize President Jokowi’s inauguration speech and try to analyse what Indonesia’s foreign policy in the future would look like.

The full transcript of the speech can be accessed here (Bahasa Indonesia).

Summary 

Our dream in 2045 is to escape the middle-income trap. Indonesia’s GDP should reach USD 7 trillion. To reach this goal, we need to “work hard and work fast”.

In a risky and dynamic world, we need to be competitive. Innovation should be a culture; we shouldn’t be stuck in “monotonous routine”. Our work should “not be process-oriented, but oriented on real results.” The function of bureaucracy is to ensure “delivery of benefits to the people”.

The demographic dividend is a big challenge, yet also a big opportunity, especially if we have superior human resources, coupled with a “conducive political and economic ecosystem”. Development of human resources will be our first priority. We will create human resources that are diligent, skilled, and dynamic. We will invite foreign talent to collaborate. We need a “larger endowment fund” for managing our human resources. “Industrial collaboration” should also be optimized, along with “connectivity”.

Infrastructure development will be continued. Connectivity between production and distribution districts and “connections to tourist spots” will boost the economy.

Regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles will be “streamlined” and cut. The Parliament will issue two omnibus laws, namely the Job Creation Act and the SMES Development Act. “For state officials who aren’t serious, I will show no mercy. I assure you, they will be stripped of their duties.”

We need to “transform from a natural resource-based economy to a modern manufacture- and service-based economy”.

Pura babbara sompekku, pura tangkisi golikku. My sail is set, my wheel is set. (An old naval Bugis saying).

Main takeaways

From the outset, it is clear that Jokowi has little to no regard for international affairs. This would mean that international affairs will likely be delegated almost entirely to the Foreign Ministry or an equally prominent dignitary, who will likely have to represent Indonesian interests abroad. Jokowi’s previous Vice-President, Jusuf Kalla, appeared in many international forums, such as the UN General Assembly and High-Level Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific. On the other hand, Ma’aruf Amin, though having a strong domestic political base, lacks international experience. For the next five years, Indonesia’s seat in the UN may likely be occupied by a special dignitary to the UN. 

Why is this important? During his first term, Jokowi has always been absent from international forums, citing the need to tend to domestic issues. Even at the regional level, Jusuf Kalla and Retno Marsudi often pick up the slack as seen in the push for the ASEAN Outlook for the Indo-Pacific. Not showing up in these important forums signals to other countries that multilateralism isn’t important and may risk undermining existing and future multilateral commitments.

Jokowi will likely continue his business-like approach to foreign affairs. He will likely instruct his ministers to court foreign investment, especially from China and Japan. Near the end of his first term, there were rumors that the Foreign Ministry and Trade Ministry will be merged. If they do end up merged in a fashion similar to Australia’s DFAT, their main priority will likely continue to be ‘marketers’, or in more fashionable parlance: economic diplomacy focusing on tourism and commodities in untapped markets such as the Caribbeans and Pacific Islands. 

In the strategic realm, there is no mention of the Global Maritime Fulcrum. What used to be a catchy selling point in 2014 is no longer brought up. It is likely that Jokowi is content with Indonesian being a ‘regional maritime fulcrum’. Furthermore, it seems that building Indonesia’s defensive potential is not a big priority at the moment. In the first term, Jokowi failed to increase defense spending to 1.5 percent. The military has also proved to be sluggish in embracing change due to land-based challenges, a point noted by Natalie Sambhi. Any further speculation would need to wait until Jokowi’s pick for Defense Minister is revealed, but it looks like the Global Maritime Fulcrum narrative has lost steam, even with Jokowi ending his speech with a Bugis saying.

An interesting aspect, which doesn’t really tie in to foreign policy but I wanted to bring it up anyway, is his emphasis on a “conducive economic and political environment”. As recent events have shown (student protests and Papua riots), this often translates to overt repression of civil liberties in the name of stability, even in cyberspace. If this were to be related to foreign policy in any way, Indonesia was recently given a seat on the UN Human Rights Council [paywall], but considering Jokowi’s inability to curb police brutality on student protesters, address violence in Papua, and reopen inquiry on human rights violation victims in the 1960s, Indonesia’s legitimacy on human rights may be undermined. 

Conclusion

All in all, Jokowi’s orientation for his second term will remain consistent with his first term. He will continue his style of “technocratic populism”, prioritizing domestic development over Indonesia’s international profile through visible infrastructure development. However, he has also lost a considerable amount of support from his once-loyal middle-class base and he is evidently courting many members of the Old Guard and tycoons. This raises questions about his initially “popular” style of government: was it just a one-time gimmick to entice voters during the first term?

His main play in international affairs will mostly be “economic diplomacy”, as the Foreign Ministry is increasingly being saddled with trade-related responsibilities. It’s unlikely that he will attend more international fora unless he deems it absolutely necessary. In defense, the larger game plan hasn’t changed. Defense modernization will likely continue at a snail’s pace, unless the defense budget is increased. 

Congratulations on the second term, Pak Jokowi. There’s still a lot of work to get done.

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