Interview: Tri Rismaharini

Surabaya is one of the most advanced cities in Indonesia, but where is infrastructural investment needed to bring it to the next level?

TRI RISMAHARINI: In recent years many projects have been undertaken to develop Surabaya’s infrastructure and improve its accessibility, both from land and sea. New roads are continuously being built in the eastern and western areas of the city, and we plan to implement a mass rapid transit system in the near future. There is still work to be done, however, and we hope that the central government can help by building additional access for logistical transportation by road and rail.

We are also developing access for a new port in the Teluk Lamong area. Surabaya’s ports play a key role in the regional and national economy, as many in eastern Indonesia rely on food, clothing and materials that originate from Surabaya, so increasing our port capacity is crucial. In preparation for Indonesia’s participation in the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Free Trade Area, the improvement of our ports is a must as they are gateways to the region and the country as a whole. Projects are also under way to develop gas and water resources for the people of Surabaya, to reduce the cost of living and improve their quality of life.

What is being done to encourage and assist foreign companies looking to invest in Surabaya?

RISMAHARINI: It is very important to develop reliable and transparent access to information about investing in Surabaya so that foreign companies can have a clear understanding of the processes involved. We are working to clarify the permit process and make the licensing process easier, making the city more attractive and accessible to foreign companies. The Surabaya city government also aids these firms by acting as a facilitator and intermediary in dealing with permissions from the local population or building relationships with local companies with which they can partner. It is crucial for Surabaya to have these partnerships because this increases the quality of human resources in the city, and our human capital must be ready when greater regional economic integration takes place. At the same time, foreign firms can get help from local partners in the adaptation process and in the multicultural interaction with local people. Strong cooperation between local and foreign companies is beneficial for all.

What must take place to ensure the sustainability of Surabaya’s high growth rate in the near future?

RISMAHARINI: Of foremost importance is the development of our young population. We allocate 35% of our regional budget to the improvement and development of our youth. There is free education in Surabaya from playgroups all the way to high school, as well as scholarships for those who would be unable to obtain further education otherwise. It is also necessary to provide facilities to ensure that these young people can get work after graduation, so this high level of investment is vital as it is the only way to develop our youth to compete in the global workforce.

We are also working to develop informal education by providing 972 libraries, as well as sports and art facilities, language centres teaching English and Chinese, and courses on internet literacy. Surabaya has a very high level of connectivity to facilitate this, as there is free Wi-Fi in all schools, libraries, hospitals, clinics, government offices and public parks in the city.

Furthermore, it is important to focus on the development of oft-ignored demographic groups which are nevertheless key drivers of economic growth, such as housewives and mothers. Training for these groups is provided to ensure that they can find work in the informal sector, and we develop entrepreneurship skills by helping them to sell their products in government-provided malls, thus starting their own businesses. Surabaya’s recent economic development and growth is largely due to rising local consumption, so to ensure that this growth is sustained or improves, we need to pay special attention to the low-income population and to raise incomes and living standards at all levels.