Viewpoint: Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Indonesia and the Netherlands are strategic partners in a future-oriented relationship. This is no surprise, given our shared history and interest in each other. The foundations of our relationship are deep and go right back to the late 16th century, when a small Dutch merchant fleet landed at Banten, not far from modern-day Jakarta. It went from trade, to administration, to colonisation, all the way to where we are today: two vibrant nations, working together as friends and equal partners. Besides official relations and cooperation, the special relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands is reflected best in our extensive people-to-people and business-to-business contacts.
The Netherlands is one of the biggest EU investors in Indonesia and also one of its main EU trading partners. The Indonesian economy has been growing over 5% a year, more than most European economies currently. President Joko Widodo has often said that Indonesia should be among the world’s top-10 economies by 2025. It’s a justified target. With the world’s fourth-biggest population, vast reserves of human and natural resources, a young workforce and a strategic location in South-east Asia, that is where Indonesia belongs. Over the past 20 years Indonesia’s economic growth has resulted in a substantial middle class. According to the UN, in 2030 the purchasing power of Indonesia’s middle class will rank fourth worldwide, just behind India, China and the US. There are challenges too: millions of poorer Indonesians are moving from the countryside to cities. By 2025, 15 Indonesian cities will be home to more than 1m inhabitants. For instance, the population of Denpasar, the capital of Bali, is expected to grow by more than 50%, to 1.7m people. These booming cities do not yet offer sufficient housing, health care, education and security. The country is also in need of better roads, airports and seaports. There is also scope for raising productivity in agriculture and the fishing industry.
In the economic realm the proverb “your best customers are your existing customers” still holds true. Dutch companies with a long history in Indonesia, such as Unilever, Multi Bintang/Heineken and Friesland-Campina are investing not only in profitable business models, but also in corporate social responsibility. For example, Unilever is advancing the sustainable trade and production of palm oil, Heineken aims to use less water and packaging materials, and FrieslandCampina works on more sustainable dairy products.
Like many other countries in South-east Asia, Indonesia is coping with the challenge of becoming rich before getting old. The Netherlands considers this a joint challenge. It’s not surprising that water management and maritime infrastructure are important areas of cooperation between Indonesia and the Netherlands. We both face the potentially dramatic effects of climate change. Indonesia is a country at risk, with more than 17,000 islands and heavy subsidence affecting Jakarta.
The capital has started developing an integrated approach to the city’s enormous challenges. The reinforcement of the coastline is being combined with improved availability of fresh water and better sanitation for more people. The Netherlands is keen to continue sharing knowledge and expertise to enhance this structured approach. A notable example of this came in 2016 when the port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, signed agreements with Indonesian partners to develop a number of deep-sea ports in Indonesia.
Other opportunities for Dutch and Indonesian businesses exist in sectors such as climate and waste management, agri-food and horticulture, and life sciences and health. The potential to increase cooperation in these sectors is very promising, especially in services that can strengthen the supply side of the economy, such as education, infrastructure and health care. We may be more than 11,000 km apart, yet our shared history, culture and friendship comes with an added obligation to strengthen the ties between our countries. So let us team up on our joint and promising objectives, and continue to work together in unity and diversity.