The Jakarta Post >

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Entrepreneurial spirit necessary for Indonesians to end cycle of poverty

Muhammad Nafik, The Jakarta Post, Singapore

Most people want to make money and become rich. But not everybody can be an entrepreneur. It's unfortunate that too many people rely on finding employment provided by others instead of creating it for themselves.

If Indonesians had an entrepreneurial spirit, the country would not necessarily have to work so hard to fight against poverty, and could even be one of the world's most powerful or richest nations.

Entrepreneurship encourages businesspeople, politicians and other individuals to be creative and innovative in countering challenges and turning them into opportunities useful for their lives.

But sad though it is to say, such a spirit does not constitute a vital force in this country as its education system has so far produced idle people who are largely reliant on others to live or survive.

The lack of entrepreneurship on the part of Indonesians has helped bring the number of the country's unemployed to around 40 percent of its population of 210 million people.

The jobless include around 300,000 graduates from around 2,000 state and private universities, who are currently in "disguised" unemployment, according to data from the Ministry of National Education.

Instead of trying to create jobs for themselves and others, unemployed graduates mostly expect job vacancies in state and private agencies.

During the current economic situation, where the crisis has continued unabated since mid-1997, finding a jobs is a matter of extraordinary luck for fresh graduates, especially those from unpopular or less reputable colleges.

With Indonesia home to more than 210 million people - making it the world's fourth-largest country - with poor skills, it is impossible for the population to rely on the government to provide them with jobs.

Director of institutional guidance and public empowerment at the Ministry of National Education Sudharmadi W.S. admits students here are not encouraged to become entrepreneurs to provide for their future livelihood.

Entrepreneurship is a subject still out of bounds within the national education system, he asserts.

"Leaders with strong entrepreneurship skills are not born but should be created and nurtured through education. Entrepreneurship is a talent that can be taught in schools," he said.

What is worse is that a spirit of self-reliance, which every student requires in order to face the globalized world after completing school, is not taught in school either.

"Our education is aimed mainly at developing and sharpening people's minds. But it is not directed at how to make them creative or innovative in facing the future," Sudharmadi said while attending the fifth Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative event held from July 20 through Aug. 2 in Singapore.

"We need to review our national education system so as to be able to cultivate entrepreneurship among our young leaders," he added.

With only about four percent of the state budget allocated for education, Indonesia appeared not to be serious in improving its human resources. The figure was far below the 20 percent of the budget allocated by Malaysia for the same expenditure.

Furthermore, only three million, or eleven percent of at least 27 million Indonesians aged 19 to 25 could afford or were interested to study at university.

A lack of entrepreneurial spirit has also sparked concern among people from other Asian countries, present at the Hitachi forum, which brought together 24 top tertiary students from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The students recommended that Asia's education system and its cultural dynamism be reviewed so as to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship among Asian people.

"Countering outdated mind-sets and antiquated values that have hindered the development of entrepreneurs within Asia would require a shift of fundamentals in the Asian mind-set," said Marie Grace Tee Vera Cruz, a student leader from the Philippines.

The 1997 financial crisis prompted Asian governments to realize that foreign direct investment was neither sustainable, nor a reliable source for their economic development.

That's why promoting indigenous entrepreneurship would be an "important key" to economic growth in Asia, the select few students said.

"To grow economically, nations in Asia must accord sufficient importance to cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in their respective countries, and eventually, collaboratively in the region," said Grace.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's adviser for job creation in agriculture and rural development Luis P. Lorenzo has called on Asian young leaders to play a pivotal role in advocating an entrepreneurial drive to help their countries pursue economic prosperity that could lift more people out of poverty.

"It (entrepreneurship) encourages visionaries to create opportunities out of obstacles. It navigates through traditional paradigms and crafts innovations that respond to current global realities," he told the US$400,000 Hitachi forum.

The UN estimates that 1.2 billion people, 800 million of them in Asia, are living below the poverty line. They have less than US$1 per day on which to survive.


2002  The Jakarta Post