The Doer
Category: Outlook 2017 By : Forbes Indonesia team Read : 198 Date : Friday, November 10, 2017 - 09:21:12




The Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, 68, is known for being a well-trained academic, with a PhD in macroeconomics from the Sorbonne in Paris. Yet he has proven that he can focus on concrete results as well as theories—he has been the driving force in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s cabinet translating the president’s nation-building aspirations into actual infrastructure on the ground. The normally low-profile Darmin laid out his outlook for transforming the country through new infrastructure, and other reforms, in an exclusive interview with Forbes Indonesia in mid-September in his offices. 

Darmin’s track record speaks for itself—since 2014, approximately $72 billion worth of infrastructure has been completed or is now under construction (excluding electricity programs). No recent administration has accomplished so much in so little time—one has to go back to the early phase of the Suharto regime to find a comparable build-out. In the process, Darmin, the former head of Bank Indonesia, has built a reputation as a doer. Darmin makes clear that these accomplishments are from a collective effort, composed of ministers and ministries, both inside and outside his preview, and regional heads. “It’s a solid team effort, the president sets the vision that we implement—not only just building infrastructure but implementing economic policies that lift the living standards of our citizens concurrently”, he says.

The infrastructure process is important not just in size but scope, as it encompasses the entire country. While the more populated Java and Sumatra have gotten about $40 billion of $72 billion figure, other regions, often overlooked, are finally getting a share as well, such as Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Papua and the Malukus—in total over 129 priority and strategic infrastructure projects are currently under construction across the archipelago.

Some of these projects look to be transformational once completed, such as the Trans Sumatra Highway, as a backbone linking together Sumatra—and its development. Other notable projects are the concurrent construction of the Jakarta MRT and LRT projects, a major railway in Sulawesi, and a special economic zone in Papua. Yet Darmin is focused not just on concrete and steel, but also on bringing greater financial inclusion to those often marginalized. Darmin has spearheaded vital policy reforms to improve the livelihood of millions. One of the most important is agrarian reforms, which will, when completed, deliver land titles to millions of small landholders. Last year over 600,000 land titles were issued, and so far this year, another four million, and Darmin is aiming for five million land titles issued by year-end. By 2019, the end of the Jokowi’s first term, Darmin projects the government can create 21 million new land owners.

Darmin sees a huge benefit coming from more widespread land ownership. “Can you imagine the impact this will have in increasing the wealth of the small landholders across the country? For the first time, they have assets that they can use as legitimate collateral, so they become direct participants and not just spectators of the economic growth in the country,” he says. Another major government program is introducing and supporting farmers in new farm management reforms to change the way the farmers grow their crops. “We are encouraging the creation of cluster farming to increase economies of scale as well as to increasing productivity of the farms with better seeds,” he says.

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