Faisal Maliki Baskoro
Indonesia needs to invest more in education and trust its young generation in order to meet its target of becoming a top five economy by 2020, ministers said.
Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said that the goal of making Indonesia a top five economy in 2020 was in the hands of the “Justin Bieber generation.”
Gita addressed 1,600 new students at Pelita Harapan University (UPH) at UPH Fest, a ceremony for new students.
“The Justin Bieber generation will define the future of Indonesia,” he said on Friday, referring to the popular Canadian singer. “You will be a defining factor for you, your family and your nation.”
The speech was met with applause as well as laughter from the students.
He said the future looked bright for young Indonesians as the country’s economy would continue to improve with the development of infrastructure and better access to information.
“In 2020, Indonesia can be one of the top five economies in the world with an income per capita of $30,000. Right in front of you is a huge cake worth $60 trillion you can tinker with. In 18 years, you will grow from Justin Bieber to Jay-Z,” he said, referring to the latter as the hip-hop mogul.
Gita said the government would take the long road to meet that target by investing in education and the added-value sector instead of just counting on raw exports. “We don’t want to depend on mining coal and oil. We want to invent and innovate,” said Gita, who is also the producer of teen boyband sensation Sm*sh.
The government has allocated Rp 286.56 trillion ($30.4 billion) for education, 20 percent of the state budget. Gita said that amount could be increased if the government boosted the taxpayer base. Only 10 million Indonesians pay taxes out of a population of 240 million, he said.
“If we can grow that base, then I am sure we can improve education,” he said.
He said the level of innovation in Indonesia was still low compared to China and Japan. Gita said Japan and China patented around 300,000 ideas in 2009 as compared to Indonesia’s 4,000 patents.
Quoting late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Gita, who sported an Afro in his younger years and had majored in music before he took accounting, told the students to “stay hungry, stay foolish.” He added that students should also be proud of their country, but warned them not to get complacent.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu also attended the event. She said young Indonesians lacked local role models as there were no prominent artists, athletes or successful innovators from Indonesia known in the world.
“There aren’t many local role models for kids. Successful people should get more exposure outside Indonesia,” she said.
Mari pointed to Sehat Sutardja, founder of Marvell Technology Group as someone kids could look up to. Marvell is a chip producer valued at about $5 billion.
She also encouraged the young to be creative and unafraid of introducing new ideas. She said parents should also remove the stereotype that working in a creative industry is not a good career option.
“Never discourage their crazy and weird ideas. An idea can be a business model. All it takes is mentoring,” she said.
She encouraged students to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, a founder of Facebook, by exploring ideas in content provision. “Mobile Internet penetration is now at 67 percent of the population. The potential of the online industry is estimated at Rp 4 trillion. There’s a lot of potential that you can explore,” she said.
Indonesian ranks fourth in Facebook use and third in Twitter use globally.
Dahlan Iskan, the state enterprises minister, said the bureaucracy could not keep up with the younger generation’s pace.
“Today’s generation is more vocal. They are spoiled and want everything to be done instantly. We can’t make them slow their pace. Bureaucracy must change no matter how difficult it is,” he said.
Bernard Lesmana, a freshman at UPH’s business school, wasn’t too happy at being included in the “Bieber generation.”
“I don’t know about being called a Bieber generation kid, but as students, our duty is to learn. One day I’ll be a successful entrepreneur and make my country proud,” he said.