The announcement of AUKUS — a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — sparked concern over escalating rivalry across the Indo-Pacific. Canberra is now attempting to allay suspicion in Indonesia, a key strategic partner, over its commitment to regional peace. But Indonesia should view AUKUS in an introspective manner and realise the opportunity it provides.
The irate French reaction to the AUKUS defence deal provided plenty of fodder for the international media. Much has been made of Australia’s duplicitous treatment of France, whose officials were wilfully misled by Canberra about the cancellation of its contract with Naval Group to build Australia’s future submarine fleet. The damage to Australia’s image in Europe is non-trivial with ramifications beyond ties with Australia. Even the White House is dumping on its own ally in the press for how badly it handled the communication with Paris.
The 2018 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) between Indonesia and Australia expressed a shared commitment to improving bilateral relations. Indonesia and Australia have attempted to boost cooperation by promoting economic dialogue. While the benefits of economic dialogue are obvious, they should also introduce a consultative forum with non-state actors that focuses on economic–financial affairs to enhance inclusiveness.
Last year the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced the “NSP Plus” – an upgrade version of the New Southern Policy (NSP) – to better respond to newly unfolding changes in the international environment. It is necessary to talk about how to promote NSP Plus with each ASEAN counterpart.
COVID-19 is different from the past shocks we have experienced. Unlike previous crises, one of the most troubling changes is that lost jobs may not be recovered permanently because of the structural changes intertwined with the COVID-19 shock. The economic shock has led to massive layoffs, but the economic recovery will only create fewer jobs than before due to digital-based investment and automation.
As most Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, serve as production bases for multinational corporations, middle-skilled and middle-wage jobs could disappear even sooner than expected. Without thorough preparation for the loss of these jobs, inequality will worsen on multiple dimensions – not only on the economic front, but in political and social terms, and so on. We need, thus, both re-skilling and up-skilling programs for the workers in a hurry. This issue is covered by one of the seven NSP Plus initiatives. Industrial advancement in Indonesia requires more high-quality human resources than simple production workers. The high-quality human resources are also an innovation engine that can avoid the so-called “middle-income trap.”
In Indonesia, the ICT and healthcare sectors grew while most industries remained sluggish due to COVID-19 last year. The growth of the information and communication field is remarkable. A large number of investments by U.S. tech giants in Indonesia demonstrate the growth potential of the digital economy in Indonesia despite the spread of COVID-19. In response to this potential seen in Indonesia, the NSP Plus initiative “Cooperate in future industries for common prosperity” emphasizes cooperation in areas related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Since the 7 NSP Plus initiatives aim to include as much as possible the demands of ASEAN people, collected through public surveys, it seems to be good to make better cooperation with Indonesia. However, there is still a need for much closer communication to produce better outcomes while reducing the bias resulting from a limited scope of survey respondents.
Amid the commentary on Australia’s handling of France over the decision to switch to nuclear-powered submarines, Canberra’s treatment of another close partner and the reaction that has caused have received relatively scant attention.
The Australian government’s dealings with Indonesia on the submarines and AUKUS was no less maladroit.
Street art has been much discussed across Indonesia’s airwaves in the last couple of months. Three spray-painted murals expressing a critical perspective on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were quickly covered over by officials, igniting heated debates about free expression and the role of street art in national politics harking back to the country’s independence struggle.
Although the graffiti controversy has dimmed slightly in recent weeks, the debate could soon surge again with the potential for a third wave of the pandemic in Indonesia – with the country already an epicentre for the virus and one of the biggest contributors of daily cases globally.
The market size for voluntary carbon offset has been experiencing a sharp growth over the past five years, with the highest valuation currently going to carbon credits produced from the forestry and land-use sector. Responding to this growing market appetite, countries with large tropical forests such as Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Indonesia seemingly stand to gain.
Last Thursday’s announcement of Australia’s plans to pursue nuclear-powered submarines and the launch of AUKUS — a new security grouping between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States aimed at promoting information and technology sharing as well as greater defense industry cooperation — will be serious considerations for Canberra’s neighbors and key strategic partners, particularly Indonesia. Despite the periodic disruptions, Australia-Indonesia ties have continued to deepen. Both sets of foreign and defense ministers met in Jakarta on September 9 for the seventh “2+2” meeting, upgrading existing bilateral agreements, announcing new initiatives, and pledging to uphold regional order. In light of this seemingly positive trajectory, how are these developments being viewed in Jakarta?
The Indonesian government and the House of Representatives have been discussing a multi-tariff value-added tax (VAT) scheme as part of a proposed overhaul of tax legislation. Because the plan includes increasing the VAT rate for some goods and services, it will be challenging for policymakers to balance the inherent trade-offs of the tax. In a context of entrenched gender inequality, the government also has the opportunity to integrate a gender lens into the scheme, reshaping the path toward inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.