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The Accidental Economist

Taking a practical approach to the needs of the country via government office

Dr. M. Hadianto Wirajuda

Deputy Director Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs

I was born in Jakarta 35 years ago to a civil servants family. My parents are both civil servants so I was familiar with government bureaucracy from when I was young. However, working in Economic Affairs was the last thing on my list. I had minimal interest and honestly, I always got bad grades in Accounting in school. The reason is because I didn’t like working with numbers and Economics looked so complicated. My education also is in social studies. After I finished my Ph.D, I went back to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Then I was in contact with one of the leaders at Coordinating Ministry For Economic Affairs and he said if I wanted to help him, they were open to it. So I took the chance because learning new things is always challenging and I dared myself to take the challenge. I’m also lucky that in the ministry I have these helpful superiors who always open to debate and new ideas.

I don’t consider myself an Economist because it puts a lot of burden on me, but working at the Coordinating Ministry For Economic Affairs, I learned a lot of new things that are related to Indonesia’s needs. At the Ministry, I handle the Multilateral Economic Cooperation. I’m involved in G20 matters and handling issues like increasing the quality of vocational education, employment issues and the digital Economy. Indonesia and all the G20 countries should be able to utilise digital transformation to solve economic and social problems.

Besides G20 matters, my scope of work includes the World Trade Organization and collaboration with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. At the Ministry, we need to be flexible and easily adapt because we have limited human resources so sometimes what we do is not always the same as our portfolios.

I was also involved in the G20 Summit this year in Hamburg. I helped prepare all the materials that was used. I divided my experience involved at G20 Summit into two. Substance-wise, I’m really grateful that the coordination and communication between ministries is close and we help each other in prepareing materials for the President. Being in that circle was an amazing experience because I could exchange ideas about issues that President needed to address at the summit. Regarding the non substance experience, Germany as a developed country had a hard time hosting the event as there were a lot of rallies and things were a bit chaotic. However, we need to understand that Germany must give the people a place to do protest and dissent.

To realise the World Bank projection that Indonesia is among the Top 10 by GDP, we need to develop physical infrastructure and human capital. Infrastructure can open a lot of opportunities for employment and open connectivity. Connectivity is important to make sure that Indonesia is developing at the same pace. Vocational training also needs to be increased. We need to actively learn from countries with successful vocational training programmes. We need to critically ask ourselves if we are really going to be at the Top 10 as projected. The last thing is that we need to have political stability. We need to realise that there is no place for divisive politics, we must have the same goal. Consolidation between the elements is important because it’s the basic foundation to reach the economic stability.

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