Indonesia: First impressions and future challenges

29 July 2013

The hot and humid Indonesia was nevertheless, a great stop before heading down to Australia. The ride from the airport to the city centre allowed me to make a few preliminary observations of Indonesia.



  1. Goats roam free around the airport
  2. Slum-like area and mini communities along the countless rivers/canals on the way to the CBD ( filled with skyscrapers)
  3. Gap between rich and poor- corruption thrives
  4. As one of the fastest developing nations in the world, there are no doubt plenty of construction sites. Indonesia is also rich in natural resources
  5. Melons and tropical fruits hang from wooden sticks alongside small stores selling wheels for motorbikes20160104_083534The bus eventually arrived at the train station and I went to get my train ticket for tomorrow. It was a great escape from the crowds of people who were hassled by tuk-tuk and motorbike drivers. It is easy to buy train tickets in Indonesia only if you have an Indonesian bank account and number. So far, like any developing country, Indonesia is fast paced and ever transforming.


Although slow, travelling by train is one of the best ways to see the country.

The train left at 8am sharp for Yogyakarta and the 7 hour long ride was comfortable, clean and tolerable.

A very South-East Asian scenery – I could be anywhere
Menu on the train
Lunch on the train
A typical Indonesian countryside

No matter if a country is developed or developing, the problems faced by every nation are more or less the same. Below are some notes about the challenges that Indonesia will face in the next 20-30 years.

(Taken from observations, conversations with locals and local news reports)

Indonesia is a very tropical country, making it a fertile base for agriculture and rice. Indonesia’s oil reserves will be depleted in less than 20 years according to one report and since 40% of the country’s energy supply is based on oil, an alternative must be sought. While proper handling can boost trade and ensure sustainability, misjudgement and lack of efficiency will drag social and economical achievements.

SONY DSCProductive agricultural land is needed but how does one increase production without destroying the environment? No doubt, economic growth and environmental protection are both important not to mention maintaining better management in healthcare and education (ideally, both should be free). Jobs must be created to reduce poverty.

Education is a way out of poverty and it must be free

Indonesia must seize opportunities and implement sound policies that will transform the economy from commodity-based to one that is modern, advanced and industrial.

With more people there are more mouths to feed. Securing food supply and ensuring that energy and resources are self-sufficient remains a tricky task. The current population stands at 241 million. From Indonesia’s Bureau of Statistics, there will be an increase of 31 million people every 10 years and population is set to grow at 1.6% every year.


Everything is linked- more people = more food= more resources and energy = more jobs needed= more pressure on healthcare and education = better infrastructure needed. I’m all for family planning. This is needed to ensure a stable population. If no control is set in place then a food+resource crisis is inevitable.

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Indonesia faces a huge corruption problem and the lingkaran sedan (vicious cycle) is hard to break. From one local paper, 30% of politicians are corrupted. Local governors, mayors and politicians need money for campaign and once elected, they need to pay it back with the state’s/people’s money. It’s a tit-for-tat ~ the typical politician + the wealthy= stay in power equation. Who gets left out ? the people and what about the promises? Leave it for now and worry about it in the next election. I will not be surprised at all if a minister of economy, trade, energy etc is arrested for corruption.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 6.24.37 PM

Still on the topic of corruption, the owner of the guesthouse gave me a good tip.

“If you want to know which regent is corrupt, just look at the state of the road and of course infrastructure in the area. The more corrupted they are, the worst the conditions.”

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When you have a corrupt government with corrupt officials and corrupt police then what hope do the people have?

When speaking about money, it makes perfect sense to give more money to large cities. Currently 60% of money circulates in Jakarta with only 10% being allocate to rural areas. However this is worrying since more than 50% of Indonesia’s population live in the rural areas. And… 0.14% controls 45% of Indonesia’s GDP – oh dear!SONY DSC

The Indonesian leadership need to drive innovation to achieve breakthrough across the various industries. In fact, every leadership need to push imagination and willingness to innovate ( not just copy) as well as having the decisiveness to achieve breakthroughs in areas of development and governance.

Let’s see how you go Indonesia.