Saturday, June 16, 2007

Even Elephant Can Dance

The common perception is that countries like Singapore are far easier to manage than its neighboring countries like Indonesia, and hence its economy could develop far better and faster, due to its tiny size. I do not subscribe to the argument anymore.

This kind of perception believed by many Indonesians, supported cynically by its neighbors, has contributed to the slow development of the country. It gives government officials good excuses to cover up their incompetence and lack of sense of urgency. On the other side, it makes people tolerate and justify easily things that are not working.

It's true that Indonesia has a lot more challenges other than just size. Nobody will argue about it. To me, however, it's more about people's mindset, paradigm; the way people see things that will affect their initiatives, actions that follows. It's then more about education, experience and exposures.

A person may see that the huge size of Indonesia as weakness. A different mindset, however, will see the rank 4 in the World's most populous countries, with 234,693,997 people living on its surface, as a real opportunity and strength.

Mindset alone is certainly not enough. We can not beat Federer on the tennis court, or upset Tiger Wood in the golf course, just by having a positive thinking. We won't be able to catch up with Singapore or Malaysia just by having a belief that we can.

Here's one of my favorite stories from Russel Myers' Broom Hilda comic strips:

The little green which is peering over the edge of a deep canyon, when Gaylord the Buzzard shouts at her from the other edge, "Come over here with me!"
"I can't jump that far!", she replies
"You're defeating yourself with negative thinking.
I'm writing a book on the power of positive thought, in which I can prove you can do anything if you have the correct attitude", Gaylord barks, then he continues,"Tell yourself you can do it - and do it!"

Broom Hilda feels ignited with self-confidence, and shouts back, "Okay, here I come!".
She steps back, kicks up her leg as hard as she can, and takes the giant leap....., down to the bottom of the canyon.

Gaylord watches Broom Hilda falling, then turns, walk away and murmurs,"You know, I think I'll add a chapter on building up your leg muscles"

Where do we start from then?

Start from people. Invest heavily on people, education. Make quality knowledge accessible by majority of the people. Knowledge sharing shall be encouraged and fostered. Make it cheap or even free of charge. Cost of Internet access, for example, shall be slashed down further. Maybe professional can use some of their Saturdays or Sundays to run short training courses for free. Blog can be a good medium for knowledge sharing.

Mastering foreign languages, especially English, is still a major issue for many Indonesians. A new paradigm is needed, that will allow people to speak other languages freely, anywhere, anytime, without fearing to be perceived as not nationalistic. How can people master a language without practicing it everyday?

I believe Jakarta needs radio and TV stations aired using 100% English. English newspapers and magazines need to be distributed freely to Universities and student activity centers. The list can be endless, but I will just stop here.

If it’s an animal, Indonesia is a huge elephant that still struggle to dance. China and India are certainly bigger elephants, much bigger than Indonesia, and yet they have started dancing in an amazing way.

Let's help the elephant then, so that it will be able to dance, earlier and in a better way.

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  1. imo opinion, /less/ management is needed. the govt needs to get the hell out of interfering with people's lives and businesses. let ppl help themselves, and stop trying to manage them and extort money from them!!

  2. in this case, i agree with some of your word. English, education.... Mindsets!! it's not about how we think others think about Indonesia, but it's about admitting how we think of Indonesia. If we keep saying Indonesia is not that bad (to make our country look good), there will never be an improvement. It's not a perception, it's reality.
    *Sometimes reality does bite*

    To do that, rules are needed. Mindset will not change except government makes clear, strict boundaries. Too many 'easy' acts, lot's of rewards no punishment. second independency, third access.

    People are the hardest to change. We tried to fight KKN with all the media buzzing about it, but we can still see it everywhere around us, daily, even from the little thing. I tried to make a change before, instead people around me hated me and talked about me on my back. Thank god i'm not working there anymore.

    and imo, indonesia is like a giant hipo, not an elephant!

  3. Do you want a great country? find me a hard-working, honest, humble, shrewd and teachable group of people. There are so many things Indonesia needs (decent education/love of learning, effective governance, public trust, sense of collective citizenship) I could go on forever naming them.

    I just wish Indonesians can start doing something more than ranting about how great Majapahit and Sriwijaya were; we should be recapturing the moment instead of crying over spilt milk!

    @utie: I don't mind if Indonesia's a hippo. Hippos swim fast too, they cruise at approx 60km/h! :p

  4. Hmmm... interisting thoughts, even I myself believe for a while in the singapore case (smaller countries/population, easier to manage)

    (English) language is certainly one of the tool to bring the country a step forward, though I personally believe not the 'priority' tool (for example, China).

    I always wonder why is this country, that is rich in many ways (natural resources, culture, etc), can be so behind in infrastructure and economic sense. Or have I underestimated the effect of corruption? (Someone mentioned the figure here)

    The elephant (or hippo, whatever) is trying hard to dance, but something stops it from doing so.

  5. setuju Pak....!

    permasalahan utama Indonesia adalah paradigma masyarakatnya yang terlalu pesimis terhadap perkembangan bangsanya sendiri.

  6. @mukuge: you're right!:)

    better or worse, Indonesia is my country! yuhuuuuuu....

  7. why do you describe it as elephant mas aroeng? but it's nice :)

  8. bagus banget artikelnya, kadang kalo liat Indonesia yang huge tapi tak berkembang dengan baik jadi malu, kalo malaysia aza bisa kenapa Indonesia nggak bisa, misalnya, pariwisata disini dikemas dan dipromosikan dengan sangat menarik, padahal kalo kita datangin nggak kalah ama yg ada di Indonesia, tapi di Indonesia kurang promosi, itu hanya salah satu contoh aza, masih banyak yg lainnya, semoga the elephant will dance easily.