Create a Competitive Indonesia Through Increased Funding for R&D

Jakarta. Muhammad Nasir, the new minister for tertiary education and research and technology, says he wants Indonesia to become a world-class player in the fields of science and academic research.

Nasir, who was one of 34 ministers named to President Joko Widodo’s cabinet on Sunday, said on Monday that Indonesia’s research and higher education sectors “must definitely be improved” to support the country’s industry and innovation sectors.

The sentiment has been welcomed by Indonesia’s science community, which has struggled with relatively low government funding for research and development.

Nasir, the rector of Diponegoro University in Semarang, Central Java, said he would start working on his plans after the inaugural cabinet meeting, which was held on Monday afternoon.

“The blueprint [for the ministry] is ready, but I still need to wait for the president’s directive at the cabinet meeting for further details,” he said ahead of the meeting at the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

Indonesian government spending on research and development this year amounted to Rp 8 trillion ($662 million), or around half a percent of the total Rp 1,600 trillion state budget, which is nowhere near sufficient to support a strong and productive scientific community in the country, according to Pariatmono, the deputy for science and technology empowerment at the then-Research and Technology Ministry in June.

Data from the World Bank showed that Indonesia spent the equivalent of 0.08 percent of its gross domestic product on research and development in 2009. Meanwhile, Malaysia and Singapore spent 1.01 percent and 2.43 respectively in the same period.

From 2001 to 2010, Indonesian scientists produced less than 8,000 articles in various international publications, far fewer than Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, with each producing around 30,000.

Idwan Suhardi, an adviser at the ministry, said previously that Indonesia needed to be “innovative and creative” if it wanted to be a regional and world power over the long term.

“Ideally, government spending on R&D should be 3.5 percent of the country’s GDP. And because our government’s budget is not adequate enough, the remainder could come from the private sector,” he said.

Ridwan Djamalludin, deputy head of natural resources technology development at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), agreed that funding technological innovation was also the task of the private sector.


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