EYES WIDE OPEN

Malaysia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, on facing down domestic and global challenges, educating the youth, and looking at the future with eyes wide open.

Joko Widodo
BIOGRAPHY
Joko Widodo is the seventh President of Indonesia and assumed office in October 2014. Previously, he was the Mayor of Surakarta from 2005 to 2012 and Governor of Jakarta from 2012 to 2014. Widodo graduated from the Faculty of Forestry at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta in 1985, where he researched the uses of plywood. He started his career in the furniture industry, and founded his own company here. He is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

2016 is gearing up to be another challenging year. Eight years after the global financial crisis, the world economy remains fragile and global trade is at its weakest since WWII. In 2015, global exports declined by 14% compared to the year before. Of USD10 trillion of government bonds outstanding in the world, around two-thirds carry interest rates below zero. Terrorist attacks big and small wrack the world. The politics in many parts of the world are the most unpredictable since the beginning of this century. In global conditions such as this, we as Muslim societies around the world must make use of our fundamental strength. We have the most promising demography and the highest proportion of young people. The medium age of Muslims worldwide is 23 years old while the medium age of non-Muslims around the world is 30 years old.

Sharia finance is now a multi-trillion dollar global industry; Islamic players in fashion, culinary arts, and art and architecture are rapidly growing and have huge potential to create a world new economy, but we must admit that we as Muslim societies also face huge challenges in many of our communities. We suffer from high unemployment, especially among our young people. In many societies, we are pushed to the side, unable to integrate well with others; we are less prominent in media, social media, and technology; therefore, we are not winning the battle for hearts and minds. If we do not educate and train our people, the world will leave us behind. We live in an age of unprecedented innovation, artificial digital intelligent, genetic engineering, and 3D-printing. Yet at the same time we live in an age of unprecedented instability. There is unprecedented income in equality, and we are seeing security threats all around the world, the world economy is soft, and economic recovery is fragile. We must admit that innovation creates winners and losers and innovation will only create bigger and bigger winners. If we are not careful, we will also create bigger and bigger losers. We need to be careful of innovation for the sake of innovation and innovation that is motivated mostly by greed. We must be sure that innovation really contributes to the welfare of the people. Innovation will make certain people extremely rich, but only government can make sure that the benefits of innovation are fairly shared.
There is no shortcut or magic button; we must engage with a difficult world, the complex world of building industries that create jobs, of building systems to educate our children, to train our youth in the skills and attitudes that are required for the 21st century. For those of us who still carry among us swathes of poverty, we must solve the basic problems of electricity, clean water, and transportation, and we must ensure that our people can live in places that are clean and safe. We must make sure food is available and affordable. More importantly, but also more difficult, we must build a culture that is open, that not only tolerates differences, but genuinely respects them. How can all this be done? The answer is simple; step by step and one by one.