Indonesia is well known prone to natural disasters. That is the price she has to pay for being situated in the so-called “Ring of Fire”, a string of active volcanoes in the Pacific area which are homes to more than 450 volcanoes. Volcanic activities and eruptions, as well as earthquakes associated with them for every now and then is going to occur.

Eruption of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra Province and Mount Kelud in East Java Province show us again how important mitigation capacity and capability for responsible  government agencies as well as local governments to be continuously up-graded.  In time of needs like these, all country resources should be readily available and channeled to victims to mitigate the impacts. One important area where this capability needed to be up-graded is the command and coordination between various government agencies as well as private agencies involved in the mitigation process.

Gunung-Kelud

Mount Kelud with streams of hot lava. Taken from http://www.tribunnews.com

On the national level policy, we need some kind of preemptive vision which seek to prevent disruption to the nation economic growth due to natural disaster like this. More than 50% of Indonesia GDP and more than 60% of its population live in Java island. So it is high time for Indonesia to move much quickly and to diversify economic growth spots outside Java or western part of Indonesia to area less prone to natural disaster such as kalimantan and eastern part of Indonesia. Population is also important to be distributed equally. Do not put all the eggs in one basket, otherwise we are going to have great lost.

Economic activities and investments outside Java should be encouraged by supporting policies. Economic growth hot spots will eventually draw people to come, so we do not need any artificial forced transmigration such as in the past. If we continue to enlarge economic cake in Java, it will create more problems than benefits. Take a look at Jakarta mess. Traffic gridlocks, slums, criminal rate seems to be unresolvable in the near future. All because we created Jakarta as a  giant centre of economic activity. Now that it has already been transformed into a giant mess, no other option other than relieving its pressure by distributing more economic cakes to areas or regions outside Java.

The recent news regarding the plan of a big investment from Foxconn, a technological giant from Taiwan, to build manufacturing hub for smartphone  in Jakarta area seems to be a move in the wrong direction. It will further the pressure to Jakarta and around areas. I do not know exactly the reason for that move, but it seems that local government of Jakarta provide good incentives for the company to build its factory in their area. Of course, we would welcome any investments with open arms, however it is necessary to understand our limit. The Governments should have encouraged the company to invest outside Jakarta, or even outside Java for the better.

It is necessary for national and local governments to give more incentives to any investment outside Java to lure investors. Government companies should be in the front-line to invest to these areas to give example to others. The Governments should up-grade infrastructures more quickly outside Java to create favorable condition for investment. Incentives and adequate infrastructures will draw investment. Skilled workers will follow suit. People will follow the money.

If we can balance the economic activities throughout Indonesia islands, then we could expect the balance of population eventually. People will move to area where there are new promising opportunities. If people can migrate to foreign countries for new promising opportunities, then it is logical to expect people more readily to move to other areas within their own country. It will also narrow the people income gap between regions and nurture more cultural interaction between different ethnicity hopefully for the better unity of Indonesia.

Phenomenon of conflicts between local people and migrating ones should be handled with good policy. In the past we did transmigration but without adequate economic investment, so local people would have seen this as a threat to their economic viability. If adequate economic investment is there, where local people could participate with addition of talents which are non locals, the problem may not arise. Do not let people compete for their survival. Competition based on meritocracy is only appropriate when people can provide food for their every day life. If they are already struggling to provide foods for their family because of less economic opportunity, then the coming of non-locals will eventually induce resentment. In line with that, it is also necessary to increase local people skill and knowledge through more quality education in the first place.

Natural disaster is an eventuality.  People can only anticipate. In terms of economic preparedness against this eventuality, I think Indonesia needs to do more, and needs to do it as quickly as possible. If we put all our eggs in one basket, or majority of our assets in one basket, then expect we are going hungry someday when the basket ruptured due to any eventuality.