Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Gary Quinlan, has shared three key solutions to tackle regional disparities, which remain the major obstacles for Indonesia.
The three big issues, as he mentioned in the opening session of Indonesia Development Forum (IDF) 2018 held in Jakarta on Tuesday, include connectivity, competitiveness, and human capital.
Large diverse countries need clever investments in infrastructure and logistics services to connect people, communities, and industries, he stated.
"Building and maintaining transport and communications infrastructure in countries like ours is expensive. Therefore, we need cost-effective and innovative infrastructure solutions that make the most of what the private sector can offer and meets local communities' needs and priorities ," Quinlan remarked.
Aware of the fact that infrastructure development has been marked as a priority of the Joko Widodo administration, the ambassador stressed that Australia will support Indonesia by providing technical advice on priority infrastructure policy reforms and funding project preparation as well as pilots and incentive grants.
Australia has suggested new types of partnership with the private sector to help Indonesia accelerate its infrastructure investment in future.
"Further work is needed to tackle the logistics bottlenecks that increase the cost of basic goods, such as food and fuel, and constrain the growth of local economies," he noted.
Competitiveness is considered an important factor to enable regional economies to diversify and unlock sustainable new sources of growth.
Like in Indonesia, the agricultural sector is a vital contributor to the Australian economy, and it is also an industry that has seen dramatic changes.
Australia has doubled its agricultural productivity over the past 25 years by focusing on agricultural products, where the country has a comparative advantage, and investing in innovation.
The Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which the two governments are currently negotiating, will make an important contribution to Indonesia’s economic growth.
Lower tariffs benefit everyone, and consumers benefit from cheaper goods, while local industries get access to lower cost and more efficient supplies of inputs.
Improved access to service suppliers and investors helps boost investment, bringing with it new technologies, skills, and businesses.
"IA-CEPA will also help both countries access regional supply chains and benefit by combining the relative strengths that are key to today?s global trade environment," he revealed.
A dynamic digital sector will be also critical to the future competitiveness of the economy, which should be utilized by harnessing technology to drive growth and create jobs across Indonesia.
The third critical ingredient to overcome disparities is human capital, which is the motor to increase productivity, boost livelihoods, and grow new industries.
Improving human capital requires good equality of education, both at the school level and at the vocational and technical education, and training, which meet the needs of young women and men in rural and remote areas, including digital literacy.
In this case, Australia is working with Indonesia to help rural schools teach literacy and numeracy through the INOVASI education partnerships in remote areas of East and West Nusa Tenggara and North Kalimantan, and through the work with UNICEF in the Papua provinces.
In Australia, civil society organizations play an important role in service delivery, particularly for disadvantaged groups and in remote areas.
"We are working with Indonesia to test new ways to partner up with the civil society to provide services, such as early childhood education, help for families affected by violence, and disability support," Quinlan explained.
Considering that governments have limited resources, Australia's experience in building a world-leading education sector shows that private sector education providers play an important role in supporting the wider public education system.
"This is particularly helpful in the critical area of vocational education and skills training, where private trainers are often best placed to deliver the targeted skills industry needs," he added.
This year`s IDF is conducted with a main theme of "Pathways to Tackle Regional Disparities Across the Archipelago".
The national forum is a platform to facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences to address the inter-regional development gap challenges facing Indonesia by engaging all government partners and communities.
IDF is the joint initiative between the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and Australian government under the Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) program. Reportedly, 356.9 million Australian dollars have been granted by the Australian government to Indonesia through the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget.
At the end of his speech, Quinlan stressed that supporting Indonesia to grow its economy and tackle inequality across the country is at the heart of the Indonesia-Australia development partnership. (ANTARA)