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Indonesia: The Dreaming Giant

by Steve Stine

Richard Borsuk is a veteran journalist, long-time resident of Southeast Asia, and a leading expert in Indonesian political economy. When I first met Richard in the early 1990s, Indonesia felt like a sleepy backwater, better known for its plantations and fishing villages. Back then, from my high-rise and fast-paced outpost in Hong Kong, Indonesia felt like a sleepy backwater, better known for its plantations and fishing villages. Still, it was a nation on the rise.

In my conversation with Richard, we explore how Indonesia’s rising religious and sectarian divides could put a damper on the country’s economic prospects. In a country where 50% of the population remains under the age of 40, youth holds the key – both as a powerful voting block and also as the custodians of a more forward-looking, economically vibrant Indonesia. Of course, youth can go both ways. With better job prospects and improved economic output, Indonesia could begin to take its rightful place as one of the most important economies in Asia, if not the world. On the other hand, should the country fall on hard economic times, the youth might not be so forgiving.