Indonesia: Joko Widodo  

Joko Widodo was elected Indonesia’s Prime Minister in July of 2014 as the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.  He soundly defeated the former general Prabowo Subianto.  His entrepreneurial background and lack of military experience diverges from Indonesia’s tradition of leaders culled from the political and military elite.  Many analysts have marked Widodo’s success as an apparent shift toward a more democratic era in Indonesia.  Widodo ran on a populist campaign platform that emphasized eliminating corruption, nepotism, and intolerance while simultaneously increasing Indonesia’s investment in education and meritocracy.  He believed that eliminating Indonesia’s widespread corruption was key to attracting foreign investment capital.  Widodo enjoyed widespread support due to his empathy for Indonesia’s poor and his relocation of slum-dwellers, as well as his support of small businesses during his term as governor in Jakarta from 2012 to 2014.

Since coming to office Widodo’s largest focus has been to improve Indonesia’s flagging economy.  He has implemented cuts to fuel subsidies, increased infrastructure projects, and launched a large fiscal stimulus package all to boost the Indonesian economy.  Widodo’s foreign policy, too, revolves around economic stimulus. Diverging from his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who embraced a multilateral foreign policy of “one thousand friends and no enemies”, Widodo has turned to bilateral economic diplomacy.  Far from courting every nation as a possible ally, Widodo has prioritized relationships with clear and direct benefits for Indonesia.  As part of his retreat from multilateral diplomacy, Widodo has distanced Indonesia from ASEAN. Widodo has also voiced his ambition to make Indonesia a two-ocean, Indo-Pacific maritime fulcrum, causing some tension among ASEAN member countries.  Widodo faced international controversy, especially among ASEAN member states, in April 2015 when he refused to release two Australian drug traffickers. Widodo defended his decision by saying that a hardline stance on drugs was the only way to protect Indonesia.

As the Indonesian economy has more than tripled in the past 10 years and is a fast-growing economy in Southeast Asia, the G20 Summit will be especially important for President Widodo, as many leaders have expressed plans for increased trade with Indonesia, including President Trump. Indonesia has been an important part of the G20 summit, since the summit’s beginning in 1999. Since Widodo’s inauguration, he has never missed a G20 Summit, and summits have proven to be central to national development for Indonesia. Widodo is particularly drawn to the G20, as it is not solely the G7 leaders, but also includes countries with newer markets and developing economies. Improving infrastructure has been an important part of Widodo’s agenda, and will likely maintain this topic as a central part of his agenda during the G20 Summit.

“The idea that the world’s economic problems can be solved only through the World Bank, IMF and ADB is obsolete and must‎ be abandoned. I am of the view that the management of the global economy cannot be left only to the three international financial institutions. We must build a new global economic order that is open to new, emerging economic powers.”

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