Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Naturalization and Indonesia's Human Development

OUR FUTURE. Indonesia's population pyramid is still dominated by children and youths; hence if the country really wants to make big leap in the future, it really needs to pay more attention towards its human capital development –especially ensuring decent education to its younger generation.

My lecturer on population economics class, a brainy and bright young economist named Elda Pardede, said that the easiest way to measure the quality of human capital in one country was to see its sport development. In the case of Indonesia, she is simply not mistaken.

Although the racist Adolf Hitler might not be happy, but overseeing Germany’s demographic trend, there isn’t anything wrong when the Germany national football team had to naturalize and depend on Poland-born players such as Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose to reach the semi-final round in the last World Cup.

But clearly something is not right with Indonesia’s human capital development when Indonesia Soccer Association (PSSI) decided to convert the 34-year old, Uruguay-born, Cristian Gonzales into Indonesian to give extra cutting edge to the national team.

Unlike Indonesia, such case could be allowed to happen in Germany since in Europe young and working-age population number is on serious decline, with most of the European countries facing serious threat of their ageing population, and employers there are struggling to find young and reliable workforce nowadays.

In Germany, the 2009 data from World Bank shows that population number decreases by 0.3% compared to the previous year, whilst the federal statistics office of the country forecasts that by 2060 Germany will see its population number to decline to 65-70 million from current population of 81 million.

But while Germany is now recognized as the country that has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world and may find difficulties in finding young people to fill its workforce in the future; the future is supposed to be bright for Indonesia, as its population structure is dominated with youths. More than a half of Indonesia’s 230 million population number is still under 30 years of age –a fact that bolsters the country’s productivity and thus plays important role behind its rapid economic growth.

True, the 34-year-old Cristian Gonzales still has the goal-scoring prowess that our national football team desperately needs. But considering the overwhelming number of Indonesia’s youths in our 230 million people, is the human development of Indonesian really that bad, thus there is no other Indonesian-born striker younger than Gonzales who is up for the task just to score goals?

Indonesia’s underachievement in sports –like our recent disappointment in Asian Games at Guangzhou where we only managed to get 4 gold medals while our close neighbors Thailand and Malaysia brought home 11 and 9 gold medals, respectively– is just one tangible evidence out of many government’s failures to promote Indonesia’s human capital development.

For another example; does anybody know where the state budget for education goes? Because in my campus, there was brouhaha several months ago among students and the University of Indonesia (UI) rector regarding his decision to raise the tuition and entrance fee to the university.

The price very much depends on the major, but prospective undergraduate students in UI have to pay at the range of 10-25 million rupiah for the entrance fee, with yearly tuition fee of 10-15 million rupiah –that’s 10 million rupiah (US$ 1,100) a year if your son dreams to become a future economist like myself, and 15 million rupiah (US$ 1,600) a year if he wants to become a doctor and goes to medical school.

“Tuition fee in UI is very expensive, and a son of tukang bubur (porridge seller) like me could never be able to study there,” said one prospective student of UI concerning the matter in an internet forum.

In case of future human development issues of Indonesia, the words above highlight the disappointment of our younger generations who represent the largest share in Indonesia’s population pyramid.

In fact, those younger generations mostly come from working-class family background, and they are pinning their hopes on state universities to get higher education with relatively cheap price –or even free–, so they can get a better life in the future and liberate themselves from the devil circle of poverty.

Several days ago, The Jakarta Post published a pride-oozing headline on its front page titling “RI makes big strides in human development,” (Dec 11). Well, really?

Speaking from my own experience in my university, as well as my observation on Indonesia sports achievement, the data presented on that news seems to be somewhat different with what happens in reality.

But the good news is: Unlike Germany, our age structure is far from ageing, our population pyramid is still dominated by youths, and clearly we have no shortage of young workforce. If Indonesian policymakers and lawmakers pay more heed to education and Indonesia’s human capital development, and redirect policies to enhance the quality of Indonesian workforce, Europe’s ageing and declining population could actually become our advantage in the future.

Predictably, what happens nowadays is almost the opposite, since policymakers and lawmakers don’t like to do something if they could not get the credit for it, while policies on population and human capital development, unfortunately, tend show their effects in the very, very long run.

We have already had our failure in football’s youth development, and in the future we certainly don’t want things to become worse so we will have to naturalize another Uruguayan to become our next Finance Minister.

This article was published in The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, December 14 2010

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