Ridwan Kamil acts fast on coronavirus, looks ahead on equitable development

The leader of one of Indonesia’s biggest provinces has set up dedicated services to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, drawing in one of The Australia-Indonesia Centre’s partner Universities.


West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil is using laboratory facilities at the Bandung Institute of Technology to test and track the disease as officials try to slow down its spread. He is among political leaders who moved early and implemented measures in a country which is now coming to grips with a significant health issue.

Governor Kamil was in Melbourne earlier this year to discuss his economic plan for the province of 50 million people, before the virus had been detected and confirmed in Indonesia.

The February visit was to plan next steps under the research agreement signed last September between his provincial government, the Indonesian Ministry of Transport, and the AIC.

Planning talks, led by AIC Chair Harold Mitchell AC and attended by various business leaders of West Java, will continue later in the year with the resulting research now to consider, of course, new challenges related to the spread and containment of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus update: Ridwan Kamil recently explained via twitter who in West Java should get tested for the virus, and how [Bahasa Indonesia]

The governor of ‘20 percent of Indonesia’, as Ridwan Kamil describes his province, spoke to the AIC Digital Economy Fellow Helen Brown to discuss his broader aims in visiting Victoria. And officially open the Jabarano cafe in Flinders Lane, which uses West Java coffee beans.

“We need at least $60 billion US dollars’ worth of infrastructure,” he told the AIC. “If we draw from only our own annual budget, maybe it takes twenty years.”

Mr Kamil is seeking public private partnerships to help fund his five key development areas of infrastructure, sustainability, inclusivity, digital and tourism.

The use of PPPs in Indonesia has a chequered history and according to the Governor he has a different process that will provide business with more confidence.

“The way I do it now is that I ask a state-owned company to start a project and partner with an international investor. By having this policy … you don’t need a six-month or one-year bidding process because it’s just a partner, a B2B [business to business] kind of model. So I’m using this second door,” said Mr Kamil.

“If you want to have a quick project in West Java, just come to me.”

Asked why West Java was bothering to seek Australian investment when Asian companies were already knocking on the door, he explained his “need to balance the geopolitical dimensions” of the economy.

“Eighty per cent [of investment] is coming from Asia, but little from Australia. I see Australian people with little understanding of their biggest neighbour. When [Indonesia] becomes the fourth largest economy, I think Australia should be the first partner.”

Mr Kamil says the investment will help build a progressive province that improves the quality of life for all regardless of income or education.

“The economy’s good – but the challenge for us is how I can help the poor side of my society. That’s why an inclusive economy is part of my priorities,” he explained.

“The reason I’ve come [here] is we’d like to see more enterprises from Victoria coming to West Java. You have to understand, we have… a Western democracy. People like me can be elected for five, and up to ten years. It means we will have stability. We are hoping Australians understand that Indonesia is beyond Bali.”

The day after visiting the AIC Ridwan Kamil opened West Java’s new Melbourne cafe, Jabarano.

“It’s a gesture,” he said, “to say that I have a [physical] presence in the Australian economy.”

Digital Economy Fellow
The Australia-Indonesia Centre

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