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Human capital development programmes in Indonesia: Electoral gimmicks or achievable promises?

Fulcrum - November 21, 2023

Yanuar Nugroho – A clear-eyed look at the various candidates' proposals for improving Indonesia's human capital development suggests that the devil will be in the implementation, not the targets per se.

Now that the candidates for Indonesia's 2024 presidential election (PE) have been formally registered, the official campaign will start on 28 November. Each pair has outlined their electoral promises in "vision and mission" (visi – misi) documents submitted to the National Election Commission (KPU). Are these promises for PE 2024 achievable?

There are some key similarities. All propose eight "missions", with Team Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka explicitly naming theirs Asta Cita ("eight ideals"), alluding to the fact that Indonesia will elect its eighth president. These missions can be categorised into four major areas: human capital including social protection, economic advancement including infrastructure, environmental protection, and law and governance.

Team Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar's (AMIN) vision is a "just and prosperous Indonesia for all" (Indonesia Adil Makmur untuk Semua), while Team Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD envisages an "excellent Indonesia... to realise a just and sustainable maritime nation" (Menuju Indonesia Unggul: Gerak Cepat Mewujudkan Negara Maritim yang Adil dan Lestari). Prabowo-Gibran believe that Indonesians should come "together in an advanced Indonesia, to achieve a Golden Indonesia 2045" (Bersama Indonesia Maju menuju Indonesia Emas 2045).

The various vision and mission documents referred to Indonesia's draft long term development plan (RPJPN) for 2025-2045, which has not been officially ratified as law. From a technocratic perspective, this is good news as the candidates' proposed programmes are aligned with the grand vision for "Indonesia 2045", where Indonesia aspires to be the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world on reaching 100 years of independence.

On macro-economic targets, Team AMIN seem to be the most realistic. Their targets are very close to the existing draft for Indonesia's mid-term development planning (RPJMN) for 2025-2029. The pair did not hesitate to include numbers and details in their plan but while this gives a strong technocratic flavour, their less ambitious targets have led some to privately comment that a Baswedan administration might be too cautious or would be unable to aim for higher goals.

Meanwhile, Team Ganjar-Mahfud have set targets and indicators for cross-sectoral development that are generally higher than the national targets for 2025-2029. This sends a signal of optimism, which is reflected in their overall policy plan. Prabowo-Gibran do not seem to offer any breakthrough except that they have scaled up or even rebranded what Joko Widodo's (Jokowi) administration has done, as many have commented. For example, they supposedly introduced a Kartu Anak Sehat (Child Health Card) and a Kartu Indonesia Sehat Lansia (Elderly Health Card) scheme, which are no different from the existing Kartu Indonesia Sehat (Indonesia Health Card), Indonesia's national health insurance (BPJS Kesehatan) scheme.

The proposals mainly address one key challenge: that Indonesia's demographic bonus will soon end, which justifies the prioritising of the development of human capital. Human capital development (HCD) is seen as the key to escape from Indonesia's middle-income trap. There are at least five critical HCD issues facing Indonesia: health, education, social protection, research and innovation, and job creation.

On health, Team AMIN's plans include creating a non-discriminatory, reliable, and efficient health service; universal health coverage; and mental health services. Ganjar-Mahfud summarise their plan as "One village, one primary health service, one doctor/healthworker". Prabowo-Gibran have seven proposals, mostly continuing Jokowi's initiatives with one addition: health insurance for the elderly (KIS Lansia) and a populist "free milk and free lunch for pupils" flagship programme. For childhood stunting, Team AMIN aspires to reduce its prevalence to 11-12.5 per cent, which is quite realistic, Ganjar-Mahfud ambitiously hope for below nine per cent, while Prabowo-Gibran target 80 million beneficiaries for their stunting prevention programme. (Currently, the prevalence of stunting in Indonesia is 21.6 per cent, with 14 per cent as the target for 2024.)

On education, Anies' background as an academic and a former minister of education likely explains his team's 37 detailed priorities. These far outnumber Ganjar-Mahfud's five and Prabowo-Gibran's six points but in terms of substance, they do not differ much. The proposals focus on free education services including the expansion of scholarships and education funds, improving teacher quality and welfare, and revisiting the national curriculum.

On social protection, all, especially Team Prabowo-Gibran, seem eager to continue but to expand and improve on what Jokowi has started. Prabowo-Gibran believe they can push the poverty rate to below six per cent and extreme poverty to zero in their first two years if elected, which Jokowi has not achieved. Team AMIN aims to cut poverty to 4-5 per cent, while Ganjar-Mahfud target an ambitious 2.5 per cent through increasing recipients for cash transfers (the Family Hope Programme, PKH) to 15 million families. However, these bolder targets will remain empty promises without the improved delivery of services.

On research and innovation, Prabowo-Gibran aims for the highest research and development (R&D) spending at 1.5-2 per cent of GDP by 2029 against Ganjar-Mahfud's 1 per cent and AMIN's 0.4 to 0.6 per cent. Assuming Indonesia's GDP could reach US$3.32 trillion by 2029, all three pairs' R&D targets lie within a range of US$13.3 to $66.5 billion (between five to 23 times the 2021 figure). Prabowo-Gibran provide no details while the other two pairs will rely on incentivising the private sector.

Finally, all three teams promise to provide more jobs. Prabowo-Gibran again lack clear explanations of how they will achieve this, while Ganjar-Mahfud aim to launch 17 million new jobs, including through MSMEs and start-ups. Team AMIN targets 15 million jobs, to reduce unemployment to 3.5-4 per cent.

The candidates likely want to convince the voters – most of whom approve of Jokowi's performance (indicated in a recent survey) – that they would continue and improve on what Jokowi has done. This is so even for Team AMIN, which is campaigning on "change". At least for the HCD programmes, what they offer is not markedly different from Jokowi's existing policies.

More generally, Prabowo-Gibran seem to be using a more populist approach while Team AMIN appears the most realistic. Team Ganjar-Mahfud seem to be quite bold and ambitious. For Indonesia's middle to lower classes, Prabowo-Gibran's programmes may appear as the most attractive but are technocratically challenging to execute. The middle class will likely find Team AMIN and Ganjar-Mahfud's programmes equally strong.

What is positive is that all the 2024 candidates realise that Indonesia's progress necessitates stronger human capital development. Clearly, improving HCD is political in that it is a key vote-getter. To attain significantly higher human capital development, however, involves complex technicalities. Whoever wins Indonesia's 2024 election must have the technocratic capacity to deliver this.

[Yanuar Nugroho is Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He was the former Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of Indonesia 2015-2019.]

Source: https://fulcrum.sg/human-capital-development-programmes-in-indonesia-electoral-gimmicks-or-achievable-promises