Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has no plan to change the direction of Indonesia's economic diplomacy that puts emphasis on driving the domestic processing of its natural resources.
Prabowo on Monday took the floor to lay out his foreign policy strategies if he got elected as president.
Indonesia's economic diplomacy – one that stresses building its downstream industries – has caught the attention of the international community. This is where Indonesia stops exporting unprocessed ores such as nickel in favor of processing them in the country – a policy that has sparked protests from the European Union (EU). Indonesia also has a local content requirement policy in place, which promotes domestic inputs or resources in industrial production.
While Prabowo intends to make Indonesia friends with everybody, the presidential hopeful wants the resource-rich country to have a level playing field with other economies. For instance, by exporting sophisticated goods rather than shipping unprocessed ores. Prabowo made such a comment when asked by Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Kanasugi Kenji who had asked about his economic diplomacy if he wins the election.
"In principle, we need to maintain free trade. But there is another principle that is very important for us, namely the principle of a level playing field. [Processing our] raw materials [at home] is our right for our people to want to be as advanced as you, Japan," Prabowo told Kenji at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) forum in Jakarta on Monday.
According to Prabowo, such an approach is important to resolve Indonesia's malnutrition, stunting, and unemployment. Many Indonesians live on less than $2 a day, and some even only get to spend below $1. He added: "That is not the purpose of Indonesia gaining independence. We do not want to be a nation of coolies."
The move downstream is expected to generate more high-paying jobs.
"We have to produce industrial goods. That is our right. ... We welcome foreign investment, all countries and companies to come, but we want their factories to be built in Indonesia. Our boys and girls need jobs," Prabowo, who currently serves as the defense minister, said.
Prabowo's approach to foreign trade and investment is not much different than that of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. On a number of occasions, Jokowi said that he wanted his successor to continue pursuing the domestic processing of natural resources. In the past, Jokowi lamented Indonesia's centuries-long exports of raw materials, even dating back to the Dutch colonial era.
Prabowo has picked Gibran Rakabuming Raka – Jokowi's son and Solo Mayor – as his running mate.