Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – An expert said Tuesday that Indonesia could leverage the diaspora's potential to supercharge bilateral trade with their country of residence rather than urging them to return home.
Millions of Indonesians are living abroad. According to Khairur Rizki, an international relations lecturer at Mataram University, the diaspora community can deliver economic benefits to Indonesia despite being far away from home. For instance, they can help promote trade and investment.
"Diasporas can become a bridge and develop the business or economic potentials between Indonesia and the host country.... They can be the trading agents," Khairur told a forum hosted by Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) in Jakarta on Tuesday.
"Instead of urging them to return, let the diaspora Indonesians grow their potential overseas. If possible, [the government] can facilitate [the diasporas] to develop their career and potential," Khairur said.
A 2022 report by the Foreign Affairs Ministry shows that most Indonesian nationals overseas are in the Asian region, standing at around 1.6 million people. Followed by Europe (88,533 people) and the Americas (66,868 people). The Australian continent hosts 62,610 Indonesian citizens. There are 21,496 Indonesians in Africa.
According to Khairur, the diaspora community can also strengthen Indonesia's sports diplomacy as a means to promote tourism.
"Surfing is one of the sports that not many countries can do, but Indonesia can. We can harness surfing potential by asking our diasporas to talk about Indonesian surfing in their host countries. We can send our surfing athletes overseas," Khairur said.
"By promoting surfing, the number of travelers coming to Indonesia is expected to increase. We can also hold international events," Khairur told the forum.
Indonesia is aiming to attract 8.5 million foreign travelers this year. Indonesia already reached that target as of September. The government also reported that the tourism sector accounted for 3.6 percent of Indonesia's gross domestic product (GDP) as of 2022.
Diaspora and Indonesia's halal industry
Indonesia today is starting to notice diaspora' potential for the economy as the Muslim-majority country tries to develop its halal industry. Vice President Ma'ruf Amin earlier this year said that the diaspora community could pave the way for Indonesia's goal of becoming a major halal industry player.
"We [Indonesia] represent the world's largest halal consumer market. Indonesia is aiming to be the largest halal goods producer in the world. This is where the Indonesian diaspora and businesses overseas come in. It is not just production and meeting the global standards, but the marketing [of our halal products] is also important," Ma'ruf told Indonesian diaspora and halal goods entrepreneurs in Japan back in March.
"The Japanese government is eyeing to expand its halal industry as more foreign Muslim travelers visit Japan," Ma'ruf said.
The 2021/2022 Indonesia Halal Markets Report revealed the country's domestic spending across halal economy products and services reached $184 billion in 2020. The numbers will likely hit $281.6 billion by 2025. The report shows that Indonesia exported $8.6 billion worth of halal products to fellow Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) markets in 2020. However, Indonesia is still lagging behind the non-OIC leading exporter China ($25.4 billion).