State logistics agency Bulog has a strategic role to govern the nation's food reserves, stabilize rice prices and maintain domestic supply and stocks. But managing the agency is no easy task. It requires strong leadership to maintain food security and ensure that all policies are correct and properly implemented.
Many have tried and failed over the years to improve the agency's image and gain the people's trust.
The government reshuffled Bulog's top management in April this year, installing Budi Waseso, the former head of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), as president director. GlobeAsia/Investor Daily's Tri Listyarini interviewed the retired three-star police general at the height of the controversy over the need for the country to import rice to maintain adequate stock levels.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
What attracted you to join Bulog?
I was born to serve the country, because my father was a soldier. It was a call of duty. You cannot ask or expect where you will be deployed. You just do the best you can. Bulog is my second call of duty after I retired from the police force. In the police, I dealt with law enforcement, now at Bulog, my job relates to providing food security for people at large. Rice is a basic need of the people. This is a challenge for me.
How do you adapt to Bulog?
Bulog is tasked by the state to safeguard the national food supply. It means guaranteeing food security, quality and affordability. So it's a unique job. Unlike in the police, this is new to me with my background and of course, I had to start from scratch. I learned a lot from the staff and people around me. Now that I understand what it is like inside, I can carry out my duties with responsibility.
Your plan for success?
First you must be proud of your profession, duty and what we possess. Whatever the position or status, one must have pride and passion. I am proud to be tasked with running Bulog, so I have the passion to perform my duties. Secondly, as taught by my father, I must have the three Cs: commitment, consistency and consequence. With these guidelines, one can be successful. Third is consequence; I will give you an example: Yesterday, the minister of trade was upset about the rice import policy, which I opposed. But I am responsible. If I am to be dismissed, so be it. It is that simple.
What monumental breakthroughs have you had in your career?
When I was head of the police staff and leadership command school, I changed all the orders and regulations. Now it has become an orderly institution. I did the same at the criminal investigation division. As head, I made it clear that law enforcement must be really transparent and I made sure nobody was above the law. No one is untouchable. If you touched someone who was a hero, you may be misjudged as having criminalized that person. But I kept showing that the law reigns supreme, although many may not like it. At the narcotics agency, I was really tough on drug enforcement.
Narcotics endanger the future of the next generation. I will not hesitate to shoot to kill drug dealers.
But at Bulog, it is different. Now I am establishing a partnership between Bulog and farmers, working with them to boost the image of Bulog to gain people's trust. How to do it? Improve production, renew packaging and improve quality. Bulog must provide good service. Now we are training staff to improve their abilities to provide better service.
What is your strategy to advance Bulog?
First, I need to know the market's intention. Al these times, aside from carrying out market interventions, Bulog was also on the commercial side, where Bulog deals with competitors – rice and sugar producers. For that, we must make Bulog's products more attractive to the public. If the market demands high quality rice, we cannot supply low quality rice. We must maintain the supply by providing rice in sachets. If you look around, you will see small vendors or stalls selling coffee, sugar, shampoo, soap and cigarettes. Rice is also a basic need, but it is not available. This is why Bulog is making a breakthrough by producing small packages of rice at affordable prices, sugar in sachets, cooking oil in sachets, which are practical for consumers. Then we are developing e-commerce. These days, people are too busy and prefer shopping online, ordering via the internet. We are developing that.
It will soon be possible to order the nine basic staples easily via SMS, while for delivery, we can rely on online-based transportation. Then we will build some type of e-commerce network. Bulog cannot be monotonous.
What is your leadership style?
Always be tough, firm and assertive. Whether in the police, narcotics agency or Bulog, in principal, my leadership style is the same: I must be exemplary. What is said and what is done must be the same.
Leaders should not be hypocritical, must set the right example and be consistent in carrying out their duties. Then, a leader must not give up easily, but make breakthroughs, find solutions and be innovative. A leader must never find a scapegoat and blame others, especially if it meant he would be sacrificing his subordinates. A leader has the highest decision-making authority. As president director of Bulog, I must consider various inputs or feedback before making a decision. I will be responsible for any decisions I make. And lastly, enforce discipline and give clear direction.
Your life philosophy?
Continue to do good and be useful. All religions teach that. If we do the right things, there is no need to be afraid. If my term ends today, it is not a problem.
Does your family support your career?
Honestly, my family, my wife and children, personally are not too supportive of my profession. They think I am too serious about work and to some extent not paying enough attention to my family. If you want to call it a protest, yes, it is a protest. My daughter does not want to marry a policeman, while my son does not want to be a cop either. But I told them that it was my destiny. I also told them they are free to choose whatever they want to be. Most importantly, what they want to be is their responsibility.
What objectives have you not yet achieved?
When I retired from the police, I wanted to be near my family. I have served in the police for 26 years and I wanted to retire and spend more time with them. But in reality, I am continuing to work to serve the country.
What are your hobbies?
I have many hobbies: swimming, cycling, shooting and hunting. But since joining Bulog, I have not had that much free time. Occasionally on weekends, even on Saturdays and Sundays, I am out in the field to monitor Bulog's operations.