Newsmakers / December 2017

Developing Welfare Through Politics and Business

The relationship between government and business is often combative. That doesn’t need to be the case. GlobeAsia’s Eko Prasetyo sat down with three young politicians and a political scientist to discuss their views on a different relationship that can build synergy to boost economic welfare for all Indonesians.

Indonesia’s dream of economic welfare for all its citizen is set out in Article 33, Paragraph 1 of the 1945 Constitution, which states that the economy should be structured as a joint effort based on the principal of kinship.

Wirendra Tjakrawerdaja, the son of former Suharto-era Minister of Cooperatives Subiakto Tjakrawerdaja and Golkar’s candidate for the Banyumas regency in Central Java next year, says there is strong awareness that more needs to be done to share the benefits of economic growth.

“In a new trend, it is called collaborative economy. It is written in our constitution, but now it has become a global trend for businesses to collaborate in efforts of creating better economy and future,” Wirendra says.

In this sense, young politicians may become critical actors to promote such collaboration as a joint effort to battle inequality, a major national issue.

“You can have economic development but if inequality persists, various social issues will still arise,” he told GlobeAsia. “This is a challenge for young politicians to see the issues and encourage more joint efforts based on this idealism.”

Politicians hope to gain public attention on crucial issues such as the cooperative economy and will work with the government to create measures to ensure the equal distribution of welfare, as well as creating more collaborations through digital technology.

“An example of this is Go-Jek, which provides easy access and a new type of business collaboration. They have 20,000 partners, not only drivers, but also in various types of services. They are not employees, but we see them as partners, or collaborators.

“Basically, it is part of being an agent of change. Politicians now are more open and honest, while having direct dialogue with the people. Now, it can be done through Facebook, Twitter and all digital tools.”

Saladin Soegomo, deputy treasurer at Golkar’s youth wing AMPG, concurs, saying that the younger generation, both politicians and entrepreneurs, need to have an entrepreneurial spirit to build the country not only politically but also economically.

“I think in most countries, if not all, (economy and politics) go hand in hand,” Saladin said, adding that AMPG has created a new system of four pillars —education, health, sustainability and leadership — as the organization aims to change mentality and mindset and reflect those changes in future initiatives.

“The programs should not depend on the political party itself, as you need to make programs that are not only beneficial for the people, but that are also self-sustaining. Previously, with the older generation, programs would need approval from the leaders. It is important that these self-sustainable programs are also applicable to future generations,” he said.

An example of such programs is the “1,000 classrooms program” to provide education in various underdeveloped regions, funded not only by the party but also through fundraising.

Jerry Sambuaga, son of former minister of manpower Theo L. Sambuaga, stated that he personally believes politics, business and the economy, as well as every single aspect in governance or society, are closely related and integrated.

“Politics is about interests, and if we are talking about interests, we are also talking about every need or aspect that people might be able to utilize or lean on. Everything is about politics and interests,” he said.

“I am certain that to have a strong economy or a great business, you have to have a strong government. To do that, you also have to have sustainable politics. Everything is interconnected and also requires cooperation and connectivity with one another,” Jerry added.

Good and effective governance can be found in an established political system, according to Jerry. “President Joko Widodo’s government since 2014 has built a good foundation of democracy and it is consistent with the way the administration is running."

“It has also been consistent in increasing the value of democracy, as well as increasing infrastructure — which is one way of improving businesses in Indonesia,” he added. “It all comes back to how the government runs the country.”

Democracy, he said, is not only about freedom. “It is also about law enforcement, how to distribute regional economic growth across Indonesia, helping minority rights and equality before the law. Every single aspect must be based on good politics.”


A different idea was raised by Wibawanto Nugroho, a Fulbright Presidential Scholar and PhD candidate in the field of strategy and national security at Britain’s University of Exeter.

The political scientist and strategist has stated that business is a “totally different kind of animal compared to politics.” In his opinion, politics utilizes various resources aside from money.

“There are votes, influence, charisma and cultural backgrounds. People do not put money, but they can ask for a share in politics. In business, people would have to put funds in first to have a share in that particular institution,” Wibawanto said.

The Fulbright Scholar and alumnus of the US National Defense University also added that any kind of investment in politics depends on the goals of the individual politician, which may be a means to gain power, self-actualization or a calling.

“If it is not their calling, they can always stay in the business sector. They can bless the country in many other ways, without being involved in practical politics,” he said. “They can actually play in politics by doing their business well.”

He underlined that young politicians should have the integrity to do what is right, not merely trying to tackle their opponents in any way possible.

“Political manipulation will trigger a movement from the people. So, businessmen should not think about gaining returns (through politics) in the short term, such as thinking that they would gain a return by selecting a particular leader,” he said.

People should work based on division of labor. If they are businessmen, they should do business. “The government’s duty, on the other hand, is to provide the certainty of law, political stability and creating favorable regulations for businesses.”