indonesia's infrastructurePresident of Indonesia Joko Widodo, who was elected last year, is making Indonesia‘s infrastructure a priority. He is putting the equivalent of $22 billion U.S. toward improving the country’s infrastructure. This number is 53 percent larger than last year. President Widodo is also dedicating an additional $3 billion to state firms and companies that are involved with infrastructure improvement.

Improving Indonesia’s infrastructure could have long-term benefits that could help people affected by poverty. According to the Copenhagen Consensus Center, anywhere between 10 to 50 percent of crops are wasted while traveling from the farm to consumers. If there was a way to make this number smaller by a mere 10 percent, prices could be reduced; if prices are reduced, 60 million fewer people would go hungry.

President Widodo plans to invest in infrastructure by scrapping subsidies on fuel and providing subsidies for farmers to use on fertilizer and seeds. He also wants to improve irrigation systems for farmers, improve roads and land and provide more forms of communication. In the long run, this can improve overall food distribution.

This tactic has been proven effective in the past.

“Indonesia experienced rapid agricultural growth in the 1970s and 1980s together with reductions in malnutrition and poverty,” Mark W. Rosegrant, director of the Environment and Production Technology Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said.

Rosegrant was also involved in the Copenhagen Consensus Center study. “This growth and improvements in food security were significantly driven by increasing investments in rural infrastructure and in agricultural research and development,” he said.

Rosegrant and others behind the Copenhagen Consensus study are suggesting that there are even better ways for President Widodo to reach his goal. The study concluded that it would also be beneficial for President Widodo to invest in agricultural research along with infrastructure. Even if only $6 billion is devoted toward researching how to increase crop yields, the result could be 79 million fewer hungry people around the globe.

President Widodo is hopeful that improving power plants and rural roads will help the people of Indonesia and around-the-world significantly. This is excellent news, and perhaps President Widodo will look into the benefits of agricultural research and save even more lives.

Melissa Binns

Sources: The Australian Business Review, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: MTCP2

indonesian president
Indonesia says goodbye to their once autocratic government with the announcement of new president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, in the world’s third largest democracy. Former president Prabowo Subianto admitted to cheating tactics in the voting process, further proving the need for a new government structure.

Before the results were announced, Reuters conducted a short interview and got a glimpse of Indonesia’s promising future. Jokowi vowed, “to simplify life for investors by beefing up the country’s threadbare infrastructure, unravel near impenetrable regulations and sack ministers if they were not up to the job.”

The Indonesian president shows the drive necessary to create honest and helpful change for the economy, by reinforcing the weak spots and softening regulation to allow greater variety of imports and exports. Jokowi presents an openness not before seen in the Indonesian government. He wants input from not solely businessmen, but also from ordinary men and women.

In most of Indonesia’s elections, the winners tend to come from the same circle of top tier businessmen, who collude with one another to put at least one of their party in power. Jokowi reigns from the middle class, proudly not a member of the elitist party.

With the victory in place, Jokowi has his work cut out for him. One of his most difficult tasks for the near future will be cutting into fuel subsidies that consume a fifth of the annual budget and create heavy distortion within the economy.

Jokowi’s biggest supporters have been students, both in Indonesia and abroad. Upon the announcement of his win, students gathered in celebration. The Jakarta Post interviewed a number of them, receiving positive feedback from every direction.

Fenty Forsyth, a multi-cultural activist in Brisbane, acknowledged, “The fact is that it is easy to divide Indonesia. To pit people against one another is a chronic disease that has to be cured. It is not easy but it is not impossible.” Many agree that Jokowi sees the divide and will be able to create tangible change for people.

Jokowi’s struggles as president-elect do not go unnoticed by surrounding territories. As the new leader-to-be of the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Jokowi has the potential to build and burn bridges between Indonesia and China yet again. If China wants something from Indonesia, they will push hard to see if they get a response – a typical plan of action for China when it comes to handling new leaders in the area.

Even with the threat of aggressive tactics, it’s unlikely Jokowi will succumb to the pressure. His feet are grounded in Indonesian soil, with the country’s priorities in the forefront of his mind.

-Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, Jakarta Post, Bloomberg
Photo: Reuters

smartphone
Mozilla, a company best known for its Internet browser, plans to release a $25 smartphone. The inexpensive phone is not intended to compete with existing markets where Android and Apple dominate, but rather to be sold in emerging markets in places like India and Indonesia.

The phone will run Firefox OS — Mozilla’s HTML-5 web-based operating system. A notable quality of the operating system is its open ecosystem that allows for a wide choice of applications.

Collaborating with handset makers and wireless carriers, Mozilla has already provided Latin America and Europe with $60 smartphones. However, that price is too much for most consumers in developing countries where the dollar goes a long way. Feature phones still dominate in India and Indonesia due to their low cost.

Working with Chinese chip maker, Spreadtrum Communications Inc., Mozilla hopes the $25 price point will compel consumers in emerging markets to make the switch from feature phones to smartphones.

Mozilla also hopes to distribute in China. However, whether Mozilla is able to compete in a country where smartphones are already prevalent remains a mystery. Currently there is no timetable for the company’s expansion into China.

To distribute their phones, Mozilla has typically relied upon carriers, but in this instance plans to work with electronics retailers and local handset brands to expand its distribution operations. Mozilla expects to ship more than 10 million units over the next 12 months.

The largest problem Mozilla faces is the lack of infrastructure. Although India and Indonesia have been improving their mobile broadband infrastructures, they are nowhere near satisfactory.

If Mozilla is able to generate enough consumer demand, it is possible that it may encourage the lawmakers and telecom companies to make investments to improve the infrastructure of their networks.

For those in poverty, the expansion of smartphones is good step forward. Studies have shown that cellphones may improve literacy rates, as well as allow people to send money and communicate with family members.

With low cost smartphones, Mozilla is helping to bridge the gap between those in poverty and those in developed countries. And with that narrowing gap comes new benefits, skills and possibilities for people to escape poverty.

— William Ying

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, PCWorld, BBC, Time, The Borgen Project
Photo: The Wall Street Journal

jakarta
A.T. Kearney, a United States-based consulting firm, ranked Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital, whose metropolitan area contains roughly 30 million people, as the next Southeast Asian leading city. The Javanese city boasts first among a list of 34 cities in low-income and middle-income countries that will most likely become a global leader in fields ranging from business activity to workforce health and security. The methodology used involves 26 metrics in five categories: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and political engagement.

Certainly, Jakarta’s status as the capital of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) contributes greatly to the city’s rising position. Furthermore, the emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community, a quasi-European Union style economic community minus a common currency due to take off in 2015, is also another factor that helps to make Jakarta an up-and-coming Southeast Asian city.

Jakarta, over the past few years, has invested immensely in improving its once inadequate infrastructure. However, it is the city’s improvements in other fields such as stability and security that has put it on the map. Areas involving Jakarta’s population such as income equality, stability, healthcare cost, minimum wage and security are those that have fared the best.

Jakarta’s improvements also extend to the fields of information exchange and high gross domestic product growth rate. In terms of the city’s once feeble infrastructure, today’s Jakarta has been developing its mass rapid transit system. Its groundbreaking ceremony was held in late 2013. This project will begin operating in 2017-2018 and it will help to facilitate the daily commute of the residents of the city and its surrounding areas.

Furthermore, Bangkok, Thailand, its future appearing promising in 2008, has been experiencing instability for the past few years, thus eliminating Jakarta’s regional competitor. John Kurtz, A.T. Kearney’s Asia-Pacific head, stated that the city’s growing political and economic importance is attracting both domestic and international talents and investments.

The city’s rise in importance and prosperity is certainly a stunning achievement. The city’s transformation into the region’s powerhouse is undoubtedly a testament to development as a tangible and a feasible process, not just an illusive rhetoric.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: The Jakarta Globe, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Luxury Real Estate Blog

jakarta_elections_human_rights_2014_youth_
Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election, currently slated for July 9, gained a great deal of attention when the National Commission on Human Rights refused to examine the human rights records of any of the presidential candidates.

Since the announcement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has given questionnaires to all of the candidates in order to demonstrate that the candidates want to improve Indonesia’s human rights record. As of now, HRW has distributed the questionnaire to Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, Aburizal Bakrie for the Golkar Party, Prabowo Subianto for the Gerindra Party, Wiranto for the Hanura Party, Rhoma Irama for the National Awakening Party, as well as to the parties who have not yet decided on their presidential nomination.

The questionnaire asks how committed the candidates will be in improving areas where a large amount of religious violence is occurring. These areas include Aceh, Banten, East Java, West Java and West Sumatra.

Additionally, the HRW is asking candidates if they plan to comply with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) recommendation to allow foreign journalists to enter into Papua and if they will release political prisoners.

The HRW should receive responses by May 16 and will publish their findings in early June, prior to the presidential election.

However, the record of Prabowo Subianto, the candidate for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerinda Party) has recently come under scrutiny. Human rights groups are questioning Prabow’s actions from when he started as an officer in the military to his actions as a three-star general.

Human groups are calling for an investigation regarding Prabowo’s actions in East Timor in the 1980s following allegations that he ordered a massacre of over 300 civilians. Additionally, these groups are claiming that Prabowo was “responsible for the abduction and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998, and for orchestrating riots in May 1998” which ultimately resulted in “more than 1,000 deaths and the rapes of at least 168 women.”

In 2006, the National Commission on Human Rights issued a report with the names of 11 people, including Prabowo, who they thought should be prosecuted in the abductions of those 23 activists.

Prabowo’s military career ended because of the abductions case, where he accepted responsibility for the torture of 9 of the activists, but said that he was not responsible for ordering the abductions or torture and said nothing about the other 14 activists.

In regard to the emphasis on human rights in the upcoming election, HRW’s deputy Asia director Phelim Kine has said, “Indonesia’s next president will inherit serious human rights problems requiring leadership and commitment.” Kine went on to say, “Indonesian voters should insist that presidential candidates make explicit their plans to promote and strengthen human rights in the country.”

The winner of the election will serve as the second Indonesian president to be directly elected by the public. Whether or not the human rights records of the candidates have a strong impact on who is elected will be determined in July.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, The Huffington Post, The Jakarta Post
Photo: The Asia Foundation

traffic_fatalities_third_world
Traffic accidents account for 1.24 million deaths globally every year while estimates put that number at 3.6 million by the year 2030. In developing countries, this projection would put traffic deaths ahead of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and many other common causes of death, according to a Global Burden of Disease study.

Those dying in road accidents are typically young, male and living in poverty.

Roughly 50% of global traffic fatalities occur in developing countries, and according to Jose Luis Irigoyen, a World Bank traffic safety expert, the costs of such a high number of road deaths are a “poverty-inducing problem.”

He estimates that low and middle income countries lose 1 to 3% of their GDP on road fatalities, which Irigoyen says could counterbalance the billions given in aid money to these developing nations.

The UN General Assembly in 2010 adopted a resolution that established a “Decade of Action for Road Safety,” its goal to stabilize the number of road fatalities and then reduce them as much as possible. The resolution estimates that 5 million lives could be saved during this time.

A Washington Post article on the topic of road fatalities highlighted four countries with particularly infamous driving records. In Indonesia, an average of 120 people die in road accidents every day. “When a jumbo jet crashes, it’s big news,” World Bank transport specialist Mustapha Benmaamar states. “But here, these people die in silence.”

Indonesian figures represent roughly two plane crashes per week.

Moreover, a surge in motorcycle use has largely contributed to a massive increase in the number of road deaths—from about 8,000 per year in 2002 to over 16,500 in 2007, and doubling once more in 2010. Motorcycles accounted for 60% of those fatalities.

Benmaamar asserts, “You reach a tipping point when these deaths are perceived not as something accidental, but as a result of a problem that has to be tackled. Only then will you see the fatalities start to drop. Indonesia has not reached that point.”

Experiencing even more road deaths per day than Indonesia is Nigeria, which has the worst driving figures in Africa. There are about 34 road-related deaths for every 100,000 people in the country, according to a 2013 World Health Organization report.

Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Commission points to high speeds as the culprit behind so many traffic fatalities, though poorly maintained roads, loosely obeyed traffic laws and lax driver’s license requirements contribute to making the country one of the most dangerous places in the world in which to drive a vehicle.

On another note, traffic accidents cause three times more deaths in Colombia than its internal armed conflict. However, the country’s situation has improved over the years. Since the mid-1990s, road fatalities and accidents have decreased significantly, falling from 7,847 deaths in 1995 to 5,502 in 2010. Progress appears to be stalled, however, as fatalities in 2012 increased by 3% from the previous year.

With a goal of achieving better outcomes by 2016, Colombian leaders have begun to focus on addressing and rectifying the nation’s top cause of traffic-related fatalities—motorcycles and their passengers, accounting for 70% of road deaths in Colombia.

Helmet laws, strict license and road regulations, better motorcycle safety and a mental shift away from seeing road accidents as merely “accidents” could eventually curb the number of global traffic deaths.

Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: Washington Post, Colombia Reports
Photo: The Promota

Indonesia Slum Trash Trade Healthcare
Gamal Albinsaid, an Indonesian doctor, is thinking outside the box with his new method for bringing healthcare to impoverished people. His new idea: trade trash for health services. While this concept may seem strange to many people, the strategy will essentially be resolving two of Indonesia’s major concerns: making healthcare available to people who cannot afford it and disposing of the huge amount of trash that accumulates in the cities and slums.

Through the Garbage Premium Insurance Clinic Program, Indonesians are able to pay for health insurance by  bringing the equivalent of $0.85 in garbage to a healthcare facility every month, instead of paying with cash. These health clinics then give the trash to a “garbage bank” and receive the cash amount. Dr. Albinsaid is proud to have developed a solution for both the healthcare and the garbage problems.

Dr. Albinsaid, who is only 23 years old, was moved by the fact that only 33 percent of Indonesians have health insurance. He is eager to commence the Garbage Premium Insurance Clinic Program to increase this number. The self sustainability of this program will ensure its longevity as a staple in Indonesian healthcare. Although the initial clinics required investor donations, the clinics were self sufficient after six months and able to generate enough profits to open new facilities.

The new system will be implemented in different areas all over the country, mostly in poverty ridden regions, but Indonesia is also improving healthcare in other ways. An improved universal healthcare initiative will potentially cover all its citizens by 2019. Questions over the realistic expectations of the universal healthcare system are being raised by economists as well as by ordinary citizens. Universal healthcare is set to be introduced January 2014, but if for some reason some Indonesians are not included, they have the option to trade garbage for health insurance.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Devex, Market Place
Photo: Flickr