AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
The Crisis in Civil Liberties
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
The Crisis in Civil Liberties

Al Araf, chair of the governing body of Centra Initiative and senior researcher at Imparsial (The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor), in Koran Tempo (October 5, 2021)

Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: Prananta Haroun/Unsplash)

The Crisis in Civil Liberties

Indonesia is having a freedom-of-expression crisis. Arrests of those who criticized the government shows that civil liberties are being constrained. Since 2018, researchers and academics have observed that those in power aim to restrict their opposition and groups that are critical of authority.

On several occasions, President Joko Widodo has used non-democratic methods to manipulate and suppress opposition groups, for example, by politically manipulating the laws on blasphemy, treason and community organizations.

There are three ways by which the freedom of expression is being restrained. The first is by limiting participation in demonstrations. The second is by restricting the space for teachers and students to express their opinions and ideas. The third is the criminalization of and violence against activists who attack corruption and advocate for human rights, the environment and other issues.

There are at least three reasons why limits are being applied on civil liberties. First, in the current political climate, there is a desire to minimize as much as possible the differences of opinion among the people, opposition groups, and authorities. Second, there are threats to civil liberties due to conservative and orthodox security perspectives that prioritize maintaining the regime's political stability and sustainability. Finally, the authorities use repressive and ambiguous regulations as the basis for criminalizing opposition groups or critics of the rules.

Indonesia needs to make changes and improvements such as changing the state paradigm on security that ignores human rights. There should be more respect for human rights, updating of laws, legal reforms, and strengthening of supervising mechanisms, as well as better implementation and enforcement.

Developing the Power of the Creative Economy
Friday, October 22, 2021
Developing the Power of the Creative Economy

Hastin AB Dumadi, Minister Counsellor and head of the Economic Department of the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Singapore, in Kompas (October 6, 2021)

Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: UNICEF)

Developing the Power of the Creative Economy

The South Korean boyband BTS appeared at the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations. This shows that Korea takes their soft power diplomacy seriously. According to a report by US National Public Radio (NPR), BTS is estimated to contribute at least US$5 billion to the economy each year. In addition, BTS attracts tourists to South Korea through its concerts, while also advancing the country’s fashion, merchandise and food industries, among others.

Just like South Korea, Indonesia has great potential to advance its creative economy. Many Indonesian entrepreneurs have contributed to and invested in the creative sector through movies on Netflix and international film festivals, being featured in Hollywood blockbuster movie soundtracks, fashion weeks, and culinary diplomacy.

There are four key factors required to advance Indonesia's creative economy:

First, strong will, especially from the government, is needed to give priority to the strengthening of the creative industry as one of the sources of economic strength.

Second, all crucial parties must put in the hard work.

Third, consistency in regulation, creation and maintaining quality to build strong branding for Indonesia and contributors to the creative industry.

Finally, strong collaboration among all stakeholders will lead to success by creating a conducive creative-economy ecosystem. The government, private sector, and talents must work hand in hand to move forward.

If Indonesia can bring together all the various elements needed for such an ecosystem, this sector can undoubtedly become a great driver of economic growth.

We Need The Capacity To Live With The Threat Of Natural Disasters
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
We Need The Capacity To Live With The Threat Of Natural Disasters

Dwikorita Karnawati, director of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), in Media Indonesia (October 1, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: cea +)

We Need The Capacity To Live With The Threat Of Natural Disasters

Though it has been three years, the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on September 28, 2018, are still etched in memory. More than 2,000 people died in the disaster. A rare type of earthquake, where the fracture velocity exceeds the speed of seismic shear waves and causes a sonic boom. An earthquake of this type was also blamed for the disaster that hit San Francisco in 1906 and killed more than 3,000 people.

The government’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has changed the socialization material to educate the public, especially those who live along tsunami-prone coasts. The simple message is, if you feel an earthquake shock, immediately run away from the beach to a high place, without waiting for an early warning or siren.

Whether a tsunami occurs or not, the important thing is to save yourself first. This message is part of our effort to build a culture of safety by increasing the community's capacity to carry out self-evacuation. Having this capability will be very effective in protecting coastal communities from tsunamis, as has happened in the communities of Japan in 2011, Nias in 2005, and Aceh in 2004. Bearing in mind, in some parts of Indonesia, the estimated time of arrival of a tsunami ranges from one to seven minutes. The old principle of 20-20-20 (if you feel a shaking on the beach for 20 seconds, immediately run to a place higher than 20 meters because a tsunami will come 20 minutes later) seems no longer appropriate.

Another thing which is no less important is to build a reliable communication network infrastructure. Not only is it vital in disseminating early warning messages but communication networks are also vital in disaster reaction, rescue and relief. No one can predict when the earthquake and tsunami will occur but with the involvement of all parties – the central and local governments, community, academics, private sector and media – to provide comprehensive education and robust mitigation plans and efforts, then Indonesians can manage to live with the threat of disasters. Like in the Korean television series Squid Game, Indonesia is in a race against time. Every second is so precious.

Disrupted Promises: Thinking About President Jokowi’s Legacy
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Disrupted Promises: Thinking About President Jokowi’s Legacy

Yanuar Nugroho, Co-Founder and Advisor, Centre for Innovation Policy and Governance, and deputy chief of staff to the president of the Republic of Indonesia from 2015 to 2019, in Kompas (September 15, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: uyeah)

Disrupted Promises: Thinking About President Jokowi’s Legacy

What should be the priorities in the remaining months of the Joko Widodo-Ma'ruf Amin administration?

Jokowi has been seen as working hard to fulfill his promises. Focusing on tackling poverty and inequality, his first administration devoted significant resources to human, village and infrastructure development programs. In his second term, the president presented five goals: economic transformation, continuing infrastructure development, developing human resources, bureaucratic reform, and simplifying licensing. In addition, there are the plans to move the capital to East Kalimantan and prepare a long-term development plan. All of this is aimed at strengthening the foundation for realizing the dream of 2045 when Indonesia will become the world’s fourth or fifth largest economy.

But then Covid-19 hit. The achievements of development that had been achieved were shattered. And the ability to fulfill the promises have also been affected – infrastructure may be stalled but still relatively on track. It could be that what once appeared to be the government's hesitation to prioritize health over the economy at the start of the pandemic actually reflected its trepidation that these promises could not be realized. Because, after all, the fulfillment of political promises is the key to gaining people's trust.

Therefore, the government must ensure that all these promises are attained or at least a roadmap to achieve them prepared. This must be done now, and in a more effective way. It cannot be business as usual. the promise of the five visions must be emphasized as the key target.

The true legacy is not the memories of the past that remain after death, but the provision for stepping into the future. Jokowi's best legacy through all his hard work must be the foundation for his successors to make this nation not only more advanced, but also more civilized and dignified.

Unite Against The Elite Who Prey On The People's Money
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Unite Against The Elite Who Prey On The People's Money

Darwin Darmawan, doctoral student in political science at the University of Indonesia, in Kompas (August 24, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Mohammad Rizky ramadhan)

Unite Against The Elite Who Prey On The People's Money

Corruption in Indonesia is very concerning. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2020 issued by Transparency International ranks Indonesia at 102nd out of 180 countries. This makes Indonesia a highly corrupt country. Over the past decade, Indonesia's CPI has only improved by five points. This means that efforts to eradicate corruption are far from effective.

Corruption is so very shameful. The elite predators of public money exist in almost all the political parties. Some are public officials. Those who are supposed to be role models have become perpetrators of violations. The punishment for corruption is relatively light, with some still receiving reduced sanctions. What a shame!

But why is it difficult for this country to get rid of corruption? What strategies need to be taken to succeed in its eradication? According to Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, the leader of a coalition for a clean parliament in Romania, before any anti-corruption program is carried out, it is necessary to determine whether the corruption that occurs is part of the culture or a deviation from it.

Indeed, we need to determine whether we dealing with corruption in a traditional society or in a democracy? In the first case, corruption is related to the culture of privilege, that certain social elites are naturally accorded benefits because of their status. In the second kind, corruption is seen as a violation of the law. Cultural and religious factors are indeed dominant in the practice of corruption in Indonesia. The culture of corruption is not visible. But it is lived by the people of Indonesia. Like the "devil within", it is evil and hated – yet it drives human corruption. It all works through a culture of prestige. This culture encourages people to want to exist through material possessions. And that inevitably leads to corruption.

Are People Still Intolerant and Racist?
Monday, August 9, 2021
Are People Still Intolerant and Racist?

Jaya Suprana, pianist, composer and founder of Sanggar Pembelajaran Kemanusiaan (Humanity Learning Center), in Kompas (August 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: isawasi)

Are People Still Intolerant and Racist?

In 2001, after then president Abdurrahman Wahid lifted the ban on celebrating the Chinese New Year, the message was that racism was no longer an issue in Indonesia. Personally, I am friendly with fellow citizens of different ethnicities and religions without ever having encountered any racism or intolerance. When reporters from The New York Times and CNN interviewed me about allegations that in Indonesia today there is still discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, I firmly emphasized that Indonesian people are neither racist nor intolerant as some in the foreign press have said.

When the coronavirus epidemic was rampant, however, the question of racism and intolerance resurfaced. I started to have doubts about my own personal belief that the Indonesian people are tolerant and not racist. It was beyond my knowledge that minority races and religious minorities were still being treated unfairly and in an uncivilized manner. My personal perspective being limited and shallow, I did not know anything about the reality of life in my beloved homeland.

My vision is myopic so I could not see the reality beyond the reach of my sight. So I humbly ask for guidance about the facts on the ground and the parties who dare to violate the law that strictly prohibits racist and intolerant attitudes and behavior. What evidence is there of racist and intolerant behavior in Indonesia?

The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is

Ary Hermawan, editor-at-large and PhD student at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne, in The Jakarta Post (July 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)

The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is

As the Covid-19 second wave engulfs the nation’s most populous island, we can no longer ignore how the ongoing health crisis has exposed the structural problems underpinning our democracy, how the state has failed us in one of the most challenging times in history.

The pandemic is a disease that exacerbates the ills of society. It is a test case for every political regime in the world. Indonesia is sadly among the worst performers. After all the pandemic carnage, we cannot afford to sustain the social and political comorbidities that have brought us to where we are today. We should no longer let state power lie in the hands of a select few who are elected to office through either corruption or patronage.

These are real problems that have severely compromised our democracy. Our elections have become just another means of accumulating wealth and power for those already endowed with both. Our democracy is far from inclusive; only those with strong financial backing can successfully run for office.

When Joko “Jokowi” Widodo became president in 2014, we thought the people had won in the struggle against the elite. How wrong we were. He was forced to appease the political bigwigs and oligarchic powers just to stay in office and do his job. With political-business elites having such sway, we should not be surprised that policies seem to favor those elites and that during these challenging times, the government seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Corruption and rent-seeking remain rampant during the pandemic, which may have even provided a bigger opportunity for the elite to get richer and more powerful. There is no quick fix. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a structural transformation of our body politic is past due.

For Food Security, Strengthen Domestic Production
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
For Food Security, Strengthen Domestic Production

Agus Yulianto, journalist, in Republika (May 24, 2021)

Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: Erlian Zakia Ayu Anggarani/Pixabay)

For Food Security, Strengthen Domestic Production

Located right on the equator, almost all of Indonesia, from Sabang to Merauke, has high levels of soil fertility. If the proper application of technology accompanies cultivation, then Indonesia can achieve food self-sufficiency and security. Indonesia, however, does not make optimal use of its natural resources so it still imports a significant amount of food meet its basic needs. The farmers’ lack of technology ultimately results in lower production and quality.

The national sugar needs are met by issuing import allowances to factories with industrial business licenses for entry into any port without the government’s permission. There has been no incentive to maximize domestic production. Indonesia is also importing increasing amounts of salt, soybeans, corn and garlic.

President Joko Widodo proposed importing rice in 2021. Due to criticism and pressure from several parties, however, Jokowi finally decided that there should be no imports until the end of this year unless there is an emergency that forces the government to maintain the national rice reserve stock.

So far, there has been initiative to strengthen the domestic food processing industry and increase the production of raw materials so that it does not always depend on imports, which are detrimental to local farmers as they put deflationary pressure on prices. The government, therefore, must change mindset. Food security should be reached by farmers maximizing domestic production. This would not only allow Indonesia to be independent from other countries’ production but it will also improve the livelihood of farmers.

Indonesia is a large nation with an incomparable abundance of natural resources. It must be appropriately managed for the welfare of the people and not for the wealth of the few people who take advantage of Indonesia's “deficient” conditions by importing.

A Strategic Solution To End The Conflict In Papua
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
A Strategic Solution To End The Conflict In Papua

Jannus TH Siahaan, commentator on defense and security issues, in Tempo (May 4, 2021)

Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: Frida Skjæraasen/Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation -Norad)

A Strategic Solution To End The Conflict In Papua

The government’s decision to classify the armed criminal group in the provinces of Papua and West Papua as terrorists might be the wrong step in solving the ongoing conflicts. By classifying the group as terrorists but keeping military actions secret, the government will only receive more criticism from various parties for violating human rights.

Instead of labelling the Free Papua Movement (OPM) as a terrorist group, the government needs to carry out widespread education nationally to achieve consensus from the Indonesian public that the OPM is a rebel group that wants to establish an independent state and destroy the unity and integrity of the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia must convince the international public at the UN that the conflicts in Papua are an internal, not an international, affair.

Beyond military and diplomacy issues, the economic and social problems in Papua must be addressed. The government must take Papua’s development to the next level. The region suffers from more than just a lack of infrastructure, Papuans struggle with poverty, unemployment, and social inequality, while witnessing their rich natural resources being exploited. The government has to increase their presence to deal with sociocultural and environmental-protection issues.

Fiscal spending for social and cultural development must be determined proportionally, along with the budget for environmental preservation, in addition to the establishment of fundamental regulations for protecting the environment and cultural development. The regulations related to social order must be addressed humanely and with environmental nuances, not only taking into account economic considerations, but also the sustainability of Papuan culture and environment.

Sinovac Vaccine Shows That China Can Make Good-Quality Products
Friday, March 26, 2021
Sinovac Vaccine Shows That China Can Make Good-Quality Products

Friska Yolanda, journalist, in Harian Republika (March 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau)

Sinovac Vaccine Shows That China Can Make Good-Quality Products

Hearing the phrase “made in China”, many people immediately think of a low-quality, mass-produced product. This is not completely wrong but it is also not so true. Not all products made in China are of poor quality. This stereotype, however, has developed so widely that it tars other products from China that are of good quality, including vaccines.

Countries in the world have started to vaccinate their citizens to create herd immunity to Covid-19 so that the pandemic ends and community activities can return to normal. Since the pandemic hit, a number of countries have immediately developed vaccine-related research. Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and a number of other pharmaceutical companies are competing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine using various methods.

For developed countries, funding is not an obstacle. It is different from developing countries, especially poor countries. Indonesia has chosen the Sinovac vaccine. This vaccine from China was doubted because of its efficacy – only 65 percent – which is key to meeting World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The doubts come from people who either believe more in Western products, or are anti-vaccine adherents, or hate China, or simply do not like the government's efforts at all.

Many are reluctant to be vaccinated first. They want to see the results and the impact on the volunteers who receive the injections first. To convince the public, President Joko Widodo was the first person to be vaccinated in Indonesia using the Sinovac product. Some alleged that it was not actually Sinovac, while some said that what the president got was not a vaccine but a vitamin. 

Whatever the brand, vaccination is one way to end the pandemic. Millions of victims have fallen, and the economy has stagnated due to restrictions on activities. Vaccination is the way out so that our lives return to normal.

Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith

Laila Afifa, editor, in Tempo (March 6, 2021) 

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Abdul Rahman)

Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith

The government policy on uniforms and attributes worn by students at state elementary and middle schools deserves support. The decision underlines the government's resolve to not interfere in matters concerning students' religious beliefs. Therefore, the reaction by the Indonesian Ulema council (MUI) asking the government to give regional governments the authority to regulate school uniforms in line with student's religions is a step backward. This must be strongly opposed. As public education institutions, state schools must not reflect any religion.

The concern from the MUI that the government decision will see the end of local wisdom is also mistaken. Uniforms based on the teachings of religion will instead lead to a uniformity of culture. This will bring about an end to the diversity that is a characteristic of Indonesian culture.

It is important to realize that school policies requiring students to wear uniforms based on religious teachings are a form of political intervention in students' bodies, particularly females. Whatever form it takes, this type of pressure must be rejected. So must the banning expressions of religious faith such as when headscarves were banned in schools.

Politics that tries to force students to wear the same clothing gives rise to discrimination. The duty and responsibility of the government is to guarantee every student, no matter what their religion or faith is, the freedom to express their beliefs. The government must protect them from threats and pressure from any person.

Indonesia is not a state based on religion. This nation was born from agreement among various religious and faith groups. Efforts to move the nation towards the values of a particular religion must be prevented because this would lead us towards fragmentation. President Joko Widodo must not hesitate in clearly emphasizing this.

Scenarios for the US Dollar Under Biden
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Scenarios for the US Dollar Under Biden

Haryo Kuncoro, professor of economics at the State University of Jakarta School of Economics and research director at the Socio-Economic and Educational Business Institute, in The Jakarta Post (January 27, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Scenarios for the US Dollar Under Biden

US President Joe Biden’s treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has emphasized her commitment not to interfere with the US dollar. Her statement has given rise to various interpretations. It could be an initial signal that Biden's economic policies will tend to be pro-market and that market forces will determine the value of the dollar. 

Yellen has probably already anticipated the second interpretation. The commencement of vaccination in the US raises optimism about a faster-than-expected economic recovery in the second half of this year. This has triggered discourse about the US central bank gradually reducing its bond-buying program to sustain the nation’s economic recovery. The two policies above, if they are really implemented, will undoubtedly shake the global market. 

The first-round impact will work directly on the commodity markets. The volume of trade will fluctuate in accordance with the dynamics of US dollar. If the dollar strengthens, exporters will suffer, and importers will benefit.

How about Indonesia? If both US economic policy scenarios prove correct, Indonesia will face a flight of foreign capital, which in the short term will depreciate the rupiah. Imports of raw materials, equipment and machinery will shrink, which will further affect production capacity. If the US economy quickly recovers, Indonesia can seize export opportunities and offset the pressure for the rupiah’s depreciation. 

Indonesian products can fill the role of Chinese products that are subject to high tariffs. Indonesia's share of non-oil and gas exports to the US ranks second after China. In another scenario, Chinese products that should be destined for the US will be transferred to other countries, including Indonesia. In addition, North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America are wide open to become potential markets for Indonesian products. 

Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence

Elrika Hamdi, energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) Indonesia, in The Jakarta Post (January 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: US International Development Finance Corporation)

Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence

The government is arbitrarily creating a domestic market for energy products that other countries are moving away from. But undergoing an energy transition is now inevitable for every country. No country is immune to the rapid disruption occurring in the global energy sector. Renewables are now cheaper than any fossil fuel in most parts of the world.

Indonesia is no exception. The sharp decline in power demand due to slower economic growth has forced the State Electricity Company (PLN) carefully to rethink its investment plans. Going forward, it is committed to providing clean and sustainable energy for Indonesia in line with government expectations, a measure likely to be attractive to ESG (environment, social and governance) investors.

Despite this, the government appears to favor the opposite strategy. While nations across the globe are competing to accelerate the development of inherently deflationary technologies in solar, wind and storage, the Indonesian government seems to be focusing on centuries-old technologies that have previously failed to gain market share.

Indonesia is blessed with many energy options. The government’s concerted effort to use conventional domestic fuel sources, albeit with good intentions, is contrary to the global, technology-driven energy trends of the last five years. Indonesia has many renewable and sustainable fuel options that could be prioritized instead. For instance, solar and wind are free and have no related price risk.

When considering investments in increasingly obsolete energy infrastructure, the government should weigh the costs of achieving energy independence and the subsidies required to feed fuel sources of the past. Investing in cheaper, deflationary renewable energy projects is the better option for PLN and the government.

In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights

Usman Hamid, Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, founder of Public Virtue, and lecturer at the Indonesia Jentera School of Law, in The Jakarta Post (December 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau)

In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights

This year Indonesia witnessed a rollback of human-rights reforms. Marking this regression was President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s security approach to tackling Covid-19, opting for an economic agenda and the imposition of hyper-nationalism, which resulted in a further turn towards authoritarianism and state control of the internet. 

Covid-19 exacerbated this through the securitization of all social and political life, enabling security actors to clamp down on political opposition by means of legal instruments, including handling the pandemic. Instead of implementing science-based policies, President Jokowi chose a military-dominated structure that produced a hardline security approach to public-health matters. 

In April, the National Police headquarters instructed officers to act against “hoax spreaders” and those who insulted the president and his administration. The police launched criminal investigations into around 100 cases related to the government’s response to the pandemic. The government and the House of Representatives passed the Job Creation Law to strengthen further business interests, while undermining workers’ and environmental rights. The National Police issued another directive intimidating and criminalizing critics of the law, increasing the rise of cyber-authoritarianism. 

All of this happened against a backdrop of increasing online intimidation in many forms that included credential theft, spam calls, digital harassment, as well as abusive intrusions into online discussions. Criminalization by the state apparatus under a draconian cyberlaw is not the only instrument of internet control. Media reports have implicated the government in the deployment of an army of pro-regime trolls, trained to debate anti-government forces on the web. 

While 2020 will no doubt be remembered as the year Indonesia – and the world – faced an unprecedented health crisis, we should remember it as a year when the country’s human rights crisis deepened, when our civic space for protests and public criticism shrank, and when Indonesia’s leaders abandoned human rights. 

Policy Leadership in a Crisis
Monday, December 21, 2020
Policy Leadership in a Crisis

Riant Nugroho, Chairman, Institute for Policy Reform, in Jakarta Globe (December 17, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Muchlis Jr/Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)

Policy Leadership in a Crisis

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made a bold decision when he announced that the coronavirus vaccine will be available for free for everybody. He volunteered to be among the first to get inoculated. His remarks make it clear that the government remains committed to saving people, while at the same time encouraging skeptical Indonesians to take the vaccine.

From the perspective of public policy studies, future leaders can take two lessons from Jokowi’s decisions. First, policy leadership is the key to excellent governance. Policy scholars argue that excellent public policies are more effective tools to help achieve one country’s goals than its natural resources and other variables. Still, they are important but not the key determinant. Policy excellence depends on the capability of the top leader in formulating policies, turning them into actions and controlling their implementation across the nation. The main task of the head of government is therefore concerned mainly with policy development and deployment.

Jokowi has never attended public-administration or public-policy schools. However, he has proved himself to be a fast learner during his remarkable journey in public office – from the mayor of Solo to the governor of Jakarta to the president of Southeast Asia’s biggest country. Early in his second term as president, he is already extremely skilled at policy leadership – a subject rarely taught in public-policy schools. Indeed, the second lesson is that policy leadership is the key requirement for any future leader and has to be taught as a core competence in national leadership training institutions.