Thursday, December 6, 2018

Welcome to the Indonesia-Institute BLOG.......Updated in December 2018.

Dear Members and guests

Welcome to our Indonesia-Australia Blog where we provide articles covering a wide cross-section of news and views concerning our bi-lateral relationship and also stories from within Indonesia and the region.

You will find all the articles and stories below and we welcome your comments or contributions.

With kindest regards
Salam hangat

Lisa Bentley
Indonesia Institute Inc
Perth Western Australia
Tel: 1300 793.144

December 2018

Australia’s Misguided Turn Inward

A decade of political self-indulgence is leaving the country without a credible voice in Asia.
By George Megalogenis
Mr. Megalogenis is the author of “Australia’s Second Chance.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, right, and the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, at a recent meeting on the sidelines of an international summit in Singapore.CreditMick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, right, and the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, at a recent meeting on the sidelines of an international summit in Singapore.CreditCreditMick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock

MELBOURNE, Australia — A wealthy country that should be well placed to prosper as global power shifts toward Asia, Australia is stumbling into a crisis of relevance in the region.

The old Australian posture as an affluent outlier in Asia with the stature to do as it pleases — a country that could switch from being a regional bully on refugee policy to being a neighbor’s best friend without being punished for its double standard — is no longer viable.This is a crisis largely of our own making. 

A decade of political self-indulgence at home risks leaving us without a credible voice in Asia.At a time when China, our major trading partner, is ascendant and our traditional allies in the North Atlantic are in retreat, Australia should be stepping up as a champion of openness. But our politicians are turning inward, and now the beleaguered conservative government of Scott Morrison is threatening to reduce immigration, our main engine of growth.
For now, Australia remains a role model in the 21st century. We are a magnet for skilled migrants from across the region, and we enjoy large trade surpluses with the big four economies of Asia: China, Japan, India and South Korea.
But our tawdry domestic politics undermines these natural advantages by corroding our global standing. Australia has changed prime ministers five times since 2010, four times in party back-room coups and only once at a general election.
Yet for all the churn, Parliament remains whiter, and more blinkered, than the increasingly Eurasian nation it serves. Only one of the last six prime ministers had any serious experience in foreign affairs before becoming leader.
As power shifts to Asia, Australia can no longer afford the indulgence of a self-absorbed political class. Will our politicians rise above their volatile and trivial domestic agendas to remain a regional leader? The evidence is not encouraging.
We are reminded of our ambiguous place in the Asia-Pacific each time we change leaders. Each new prime minister seems to blunder into a diplomatic spat with our nearest neighbor, Indonesia, the new rising economic star of Asia and the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. Each unnecessary argument raises the risk of a more serious rupture between Canberra and Jakarta, as the politics of both countries are coarsened by their respective nationalist fringes.
Mr. Morrison, who became prime minister following the latest party coup in August, fell into this trap when he floated the idea of moving the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Indonesia was embarrassed by the timing, and outraged that it wasn’t consulted. The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, happened to be visiting Jakarta on the day of the announcement.
In previous disputes, Indonesians did not have the clout to harm Australia’s interests. This time, however, the Indonesians are flexing their economic leverage — and Asia is watching.
Mr. Morrison had hoped to use the summit meeting of Southeast Asian nations in Singapore last month, his first outing as leader on the regional stage, to sign a free-trade agreement with the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo. But that deal is paused until the prime minister clarifies whether he intends to move the embassy.
Mr. Joko has his own election to fight next year and cannot afford the perception at home that he has compromised the Palestinian cause. And so the history of these two Asian neighbors repeats in stalemate as short-term politics in both democracies prevents an easy resolution to the dispute.
Australia has a direct stake in Indonesia’s success. Our overriding interest is for Indonesia to remain an ally in the fight against regional terrorism, and to become an active partner in helping check the unilateral impulses of China.
The key to this engagement is openness and mutual respect.
Mr. Morrison displayed neither quality in his handling of the embassy dispute. At home, it might have been excused as a rookie error. But in the region, it reaffirmed a pattern of Australian insensitivity and unreliability.
Five years earlier, it became public that Australia’s intelligence agency had tapped the phone of the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his wife, Ani Yudhoyono. The prime minister at the time, Tony Abbott, refused to apologize.
It took the better part of two years, and the replacement of the abrasive Mr. Abbott with the cosmopolitan Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister, to restore a full working relationship between the countries. That work was undone by Mr. Morrison.
Australia’s political class remains haunted by the sins of its founding fathers. When the nation was formed in 1901, the first significant piece of legislation was the White Australia Policy, which banned immigration from Asia. High tariffs were added to its cocktail of national self-harm, and it took decades to undo the economic and reputational damage. The last vestiges of racial selection in immigration were removed in 1973, and the tariff wall dismantled over the course of the 1990s.
The present generation of members of Parliament has known only the open economic and social model. Only a handful have any experience of the last recession, which ended in 1991. Many believe that slashing immigration is an antidote to problems of congestion in the big cities. In New South Wales, for example, the conservative government is calling for a halving of immigration to the state.
But any gratuitous cut in immigration threatens to cause a recession at home, and would be a reminder of that older Australia that thought it could have it both ways: as an exporter to the region who didn’t want its people in return.
George Megalogenis is an author and a commentator. His latest book is “The Football Solution.”
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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Is education reform finally paying off for Indonesian kids?

Over the past two decades, income inequality has been increasing in Indonesia, leading to growing worries about disparities in living standards and education.

A particular concern of economists in this environment of climbing inequality is the issue of intergenerational mobility – the extent to which parents’ education or income affects the socioeconomic status of their offspring.

Scholars have described a strong relationship between inequality and social immobility – meaning that the greater the inequality in a country, the greater likelihood that someone will inherit their parents’ socioeconomic status. This finding has been dubbed the “Great Gatsby curve”,(link is external) in reference to the way that the book’s title character defies this relationship and overcomes his simple upbringing.

Educational attainment is one of the most common measures used by economists and sociologists to determine the extent to which socioeconomic status is transferred from one generation to the next. Indonesia has invested huge amounts in education and implemented several progressive policies designed to promote mobility.

In fact, government spending on education has more than doubled since the New Order period. Since 2009, more than 20 per cent of the state budget has been spent on education, in accordance with the Law 20 of 2003 on the National Education System (although there is some debate about how this 20 per cent figure is calculated). These funds have been used to implement a variety of progressive policies, ranging from scholarship programs for poor students to elimination of school fees and school grants.

As the first member of my Betawi family to pursue higher education, I wondered how many other Indonesians had a similar experience to me. What is the relationship between parental education and children’s schooling in Indonesia? Are the government’s efforts to expand education making it any easier for people from families without high levels of education to attain higher levels of schooling?

To explore these questions, I examined the results of four waves of the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS), from 1997, 2000, 2007 and 2015. I examined the educational achievement (in terms of years of schooling) of young people aged 16 to 27 at the time of the survey. My study examined the educational achievement of young people against their father’s education. This is because although many studies have shown only slight differences between whether a mother or father’s education level is used in these comparisons, some(link is external) studies(link is external)argue that the father’s education can be more important for the outcomes of their offspring.

The results showed some interesting findings. First, the average years of schooling increased from 9.21 in 1997 to 10.71 in 2015. Both boys and girls increased their total years of schooling. Average years of schooling for boys improved from 9.2 in 1997 to 10.53 in 2015. Girls fared slightly better, with average years of schooling increasing from 9.2 in 1997 to 10.9 in 2015.

Significantly, the study showed an increase in educational mobility from 1997 to 2015. To examine mobility, I calculated an “intergenerational persistence” coefficient – a measure of the degree to which a father’s education affects children’s education. This coefficient decreased from 0.53 in 1997 to 0.44 in 2015. Notably, there was little change from 1997 to 2007, when the coefficient decreased to 0.51, suggesting that most improvements in mobility have occurred over the past decade.

Despite the improvements observed, however, parental background still plays a major role in shaping children’s futures. In fact, the coefficient of persistence is still considerably higher in Indonesia than in most other nations, with Latin American countries the only close match for Indonesia.

Further, my study somewhat surprisingly showed little difference in intergenerational persistence between urban and rural areas. Living in an urban, developed area seemingly does not automatically promote greater opportunities for educational mobility compared to rural areas. In fact, my study showed that although mobility has improved in urban areas over recent years, historically, mobility was greater in rural areas than in urban ones.

Finally, the intergenerational coefficient declined from 0.55 in 1997 to 0.45 in 2015 for women, and from 0.51 in 1997 to 0.43 in 2015 for men. These findings suggest that female students are less mobile than male students, a finding that is common to many other studies. However, in the Indonesian case, the gap between males and females has narrowed significantly over recent years, and there is now little difference in mobility between genders.

What explains these results? Given the decline in intergenerational persistence over the past decade, there are suggestions that the government’s hefty investment in education may be starting to improve mobility. In 2007-2008, the government spent about 16 per cent of the state budget on education. Since 2009 it has consistently allocated more than 20 per cent.

Past studies have shown that total public expenditure on education has a positive relationship with mobility – the more a government spends on education, the more mobile students become. Public investment in education can compensate for a lack of investment in education by poor families.

One of the most prominent educational policies over the past decade has been the implementation of the School Operational Assistance Grants (BOS). These grants are provided directly to schools every three months on the basis of the number of students at the school. They are designed to increase the enrolment rate by reducing the costs of education borne by parents. Schools can also use BOS funds for activities such as personnel management, infrastructure and professional development.

In 2012, the government also introduced a new regulation that prohibits the charging of fees in primary and junior secondary schools but allows for voluntary parental contributions to maintain the active engagement of parents in school development.

On the demand side, the government has expanded its assistance program for poor students, the Indonesia Smart Card (KIP). Through this program, students are provided with a cash-transfer based on school attendance. The funds can be used for education fees, or other costs associated with attending school, such as transportation, books and uniforms.

In addition to increases in educational expenditure, the government has also put considerable efforts into promoting early childhood education over recent years. The enrolment ratio of children in early childhood education has increased from 15 per cent in the early 2000s to 47 per cent in 2012. Improvements in early childhood education could have also played a role in increasing mobility.

My small study suggests that parental education is still a major determinant of educational outcomes in Indonesia. Further studies are required to confirm my findings, but government investment in education does appear to be making a difference.

Our thanks to "Indonesia at Melbourne" for this article 

Australia's recognition of Jerusalem matters, so does Indonesia's disapprobation

  • Tanita D. RahmaniTanita D. Rahmani-

Australia's recognition of Jerusalem matters, so does Indonesia's disapprobationOld City of Jerusalem (Shutterstock/File)

By Tanita D. Rahmani

The initial anticipation to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between Indonesia and Australia recently dwindled as Scott Morrison, Australia’s Prime Minister, announced on Nov. 12 that “there’s no rush” to sign the deal. The shift came after multiple strong condemnations from Indonesia on Morrison’s flag to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Given Indonesia’s forbearing disposition in its international affairs, its censure meant only serious.
Indeed, support for the Palestinian struggle for statehood has been one of Indonesia’s most emblematic foreign policies for years, and keeping Jerusalem to its special international status is part and parcel to that support. The Palestinians themselves, at least after the 1967 war, consider the city as its future capital city. That’s why in light of the United States’ embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May, not only did dozens of Palestinians themselves fall into martyrdom, the Palestinian authorities also brought its first ever case against the US before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in September.
There are many reasons why Indonesia may be infuriated by Canberra’s unprecedented plan. Australia’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may have been upsetting because of that emotional connection that many Indonesian have with the Old City. Or perhaps Indonesia wants to reciprocate to Palestinians, among the first to recognize and support Indonesia in our early days of statehood.
Or perhaps Indonesia believes in the cause of independence for Palestinians, owing to the historical anti-colonial movement that Indonesia’s forefather led in Bandung in 1955. Or perhaps it is because of all of them. As Australia’s closest neighbor and one of its most strategic ally, it is understandable to constitute this move as an act of betrayal against a dear friend.
But beyond these valid reasons, what makes Australia’s announcement disturbing is because unlike recognition from small states like Guatemala, which followed the US in moving its embassy, recognition from a country like Australia, if carried out, is impactful enough to create irreversible ramification to Palestine. Even when Australia has never been and probably cannot be a key player in the Israel-Palestine peace talks.
Statehood does not rest on mere existence. A diplomatic mission is the currency to obtain that status. Where one’s mission is established validates the territorial boundaries of a state and recognizes the functioning government; they are the formal recognition that an entity needs to enjoy the privileges of becoming a state. Yet, how many missions does one need to ascend to that status? Indonesia, along with 136 other countries, has recognized the state of Palestine. The city of Ramallah and Jerusalem are home to over 40 foreign consulates to Palestine, and the Palestinian authority has opened 98 embassies abroad and sends missions to various international fora. Yet its status remains inchoate.
Apparently recognition from developed, western, and “virtuous” states has, unfortunately but ultimately, become considerable capital for a state’s successful establishment. In the past, Kosovo’s independence and statehood were not challenged by the ICJ because more than 90 states recognized Kosovo, including the US and United Kingdom.
On the other hand, entities claiming independence -- such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia --  have never fully been admitted as a state due to the very limited number of recognition and the fact that no powerful states have recognized them, save for Russia, which has not really enjoyed the association of being a virtuous state, for whatever reason.
That’s why Australia’s recognition matters for the two-state solution that it earlier claimed to commit itself to. Sweden became the first major European country to recognize the Palestinian state in 2014. However, its move has not inspired enough courage or will among other major European states to follow, although many of them have had missions and deployed representatives in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s move to relocate its embassy for Israel to Jerusalem has been difficult to block. This is despite the United Nations Security Council resolutions No. 242 and 338 that affirm that Jerusalem belongs to neither the Israeli nor the Palestinians until negotiations have been concluded, and although the principle not to recognize a disputed territory exists under international law.
In fact, Australia is itself the proof why its future recognition matters. While no other European countries have laid out their plan to follow the US, PM Morrison has nevertheless. As a politically and economically powerful country which still enjoys relatively good reputation in its global affairs, Australia’s acknowledgment of Jerusalem can further spur other powerful countries to enjoin its course of action. It leaves Palestine in further jeopardy if the shared narrative is that an embassy relocation would end the protracted conflict between Israel and Palestine, as claimed by both Trump and Morrison.
As Norman Finkelstein, a renowned scholar and activist on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, once wrote, there is a huge power that lies in the court of public opinion. While Indonesia’s recognition of another state may not be as impactful as that of the US or Australia, nor are we a key player in the Middle East peace process, the very act of persistent condemnation counts as a useful capital that helps create public opinion; opinions that may have just managed to upend the plan of the big and powerful.
The author is a political and policy researcher at Indonesia In-Depth, a podcast on Indonesian issues. As a student researcher at Cambridge Palestine Trek, she conducted a research trip to Palestine with several other selected students from the University of Cambridge.