The Jakarta Post
The government will involve more Indonesians from domestic universities or think-tanks in the development of infrastructure projects to make the most of local human resources potential, top economic ministers have said.
The government hoped that academics and researchers from local universities or research agencies could play a greater role in the feasibility study and design of government infrastructure projects, National Development Planning (Bappenas) head Andrinof Chaniago said in Jakarta on Wednesday.
The minister said that the initiative came from Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who wished to see heavier involvement from institutions such as the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in the economic development of Indonesia.
Kalla's vice presidential campaign promised to give greater attention to scientific research and technological development, as he emphasized the need to enlarge the state budget allotted for local science agencies such as BPPT, LIPI and the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan).
'We would ask institutions such as BPPT, LIPI, etc. to support us more in the planning phase of national economic development,' Andrinof said after a meeting at the Vice Presidential Office. 'We need to utilize our domestic resources more.'
In this case, the local academicians, researchers and engineers would be involved in the feasibility study of various government projects, especially those related to infrastructure such as power plants or dams, according to the minister.
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo aims for the government to complete by 2019 the construction of 49 new dams and new power plants with the capacity of 35,000 megawatts, in addition to the development of existing and new seaports and airports, as well as the extension of various toll roads across the archipelago.
It is estimated that the projects, which would be managed both by local and foreign engineers, would need at least US$550 billion in investment over a five-year timeframe.
'The universities need to prepare themselves on their possible participation in the next five years, we really need their experts,' said Research and Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir.
The minister said that he had designed the cluster mapping for the plan, which would assign some projects to certain universities based on their specialties.
The infrastructure projects assigned to the universities would encompass industries such as medical and health, agriculture, information technology, transportation, material smelting, defense technology, energy, and maritime affairs, he said.
'If the number of our experts are insufficient, we would then cooperate with foreign consultants. However, our priority would still be [to recruit] Indonesians,' said Nasir, who is a former rector of state-owned Diponegoro University in Semarang, Central Java.
Coordinating Economic Minister Sofyan Djalil noted that many multilateral lenders such as the World Bank had decided to use foreign experts in their projects because of the difficulties in finding the proper domestic talent. 'The idea here is that when a project is developed, [local experts] will have already created the design, conducted the feasibility study, so that the project can hit the ground running,' Sofyan said.
The government's ambitious plan, nevertheless, might face significant challenges due to the shortage of skills and education level among local researchers, analysts have said.
International consulting firm McKinsey & Company has noted that the Indonesian economy is now facing 'a large skills gap' where labor demand outstrips its supply, with companies consequently facing challenges to recruit Indonesians with appropriate education levels for their projects.
In 2013, Indonesia was ranked 108 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index statistics released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), trailing behind regional peers Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, which ranked ninth, 62 and 72, respectively.
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