14 Desember 2010

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Naturalization and RI’s human development

My lecturer in my population economics class, a brainy and bright young economist named Elda Pardede, said that the easiest way to measure the quality of human capital in one country was to analyze its sport development. In the case of Indonesia, she is simply not mistaken.
Although the racist Adolf Hitler might not be happy, considering Germany’s demographic trend there isn’t anything wrong with the fact that the German national football team chose to naturalize and later depend on Polish-born players such as Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose to reach the semifinal round in the latest World Cup.
But clearly something is not right with Indonesia’s human capital development considering that the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) decided to convert 34-year-old Uruguay-born Christian Gonzales to an Indonesian citizen to give the national side a cutting edge.
Unlike Indonesia, such a case could be allowed to happen in Germany since in Europe the young and working-age population is in a serious decline, with most of the European countries facing the serious threat of an aging population, and employers there are struggling to find young and reliable individuals for their workforces.
In Germany, 2009 data from the World Bank showed that the population decreased by 0.3 percent compared to the previous year, while the federal statistics office of the country forecasts that by 2060 Germany will see its population decline to 65 million to 70 million from its current population of 81 million.
But while Germany is now recognized as a country with one of the lowest birthrates in the world and could find difficulty finding young people to fill its workforce in the future; the future is supposed to be bright for Indonesia, as its population structure is dominated by youths.
More than a half of Indonesia’s 230 million people are still under 30 years of age — a fact that bolsters the country’s productivity and thus plays an important role behind its rapid economic growth.
True, the 34-year-old Christian Gonzales still has the goal-scoring prowess that our national football team desperately needs.

“If we pay closer heed to education and human capital development, Europe’s aging and declining population could become our advantage in the future.”

But considering the overwhelming number of Indonesian youths in our 230 million population, is the human development of Indonesian really that bad, that there is no other Indonesian-born striker younger than Gonzales who is up to the task of simply scoring goals?
Indonesia’s under-achievement in sports — like our recent disappointment at the Asian Games in Guangzhou where we only managed to claim four gold medals while our close neighbors Thailand and Malaysia brought home 11 and nine gold medals, respectively — is just one tangible piece of evidence from many of the government’s failures to promote Indonesia’s human capital development.
Taking another example; does anybody know where the state budget for education goes? Because on my campus, there was a brouhaha several months ago among students and the University of Indonesia (UI) rector regarding his decision to raise the tuition and entrance fee.
The price very much depends on the major, but prospective undergraduate students at UI have to pay in the range of Rp 10 million to Rp 25 million for the entrance fee, with yearly tuition fees of Rp 10 million to Rp 15 million — that’s Rp 10 million (US$1,100) a year if your son dreams to become a future economist like myself, and Rp 15 million ($1,600) a year if he wants to become a doctor and goes to medical school.
“Tuition fees at UI are very expensive, and a son of tukang bubur [porridge seller] like me could never be able to study there,” said one prospective student of UI concerning the matter on an Internet forum.
In case of future human development issues of Indonesia, the words above highlight the disappointment of our younger generations who represent the largest share of Indonesia’s population pyramid.
In fact, those younger generations mostly come from working-class family backgrounds, and they are pinning their hopes on state universities to get higher education at a relatively cheap price — or even free — so they can have a better life in the future and liberate themselves from the devilish circle of poverty.
Several days ago, The Jakarta Post published a pride-oozing headline on its front page that read “RI makes big strides in human development”, (Dec. 11). Well, really?
Speaking from my own experience in my university, as well as my observation on Indonesia’s sports achievement, the data presented on that news seems to be somewhat estranged from reality.
But the good news is: Unlike Germany, our age structure is far from aging, our population pyramid is still dominated by youths, and clearly we have no shortage of young workers.
If Indonesian policymakers and lawmakers pay closer heed to education and Indonesia’s human capital development, and redirect policies to enhance the quality of Indonesian workforce, Europe’s aging and declining population could actually become our advantage in the future.
Predictably, what happens nowadays is almost the opposite, since policymakers and lawmakers don’t like to do anything that they won’t get the credit for, while policies on population and human capital development, unfortunately, tend to show their effects in the very, very long run.
We have had our failure in football’s youth development, and in the future we certainly don’t want things to become worse so we will have to naturalize another Uruguayan to become our next Finance Minister.

Putera Satria Sambijantoro, The writer is a student at the University of Indonesia’s School of 
Opini the jakarta post 14 december 2010