Indonesia is one of the three largest democracies in the world in a dynamic region increasingly at the heart of global commerce and growth. Like so many other countries, Indonesia is also home to an enormous population of young people, with almost 75m under the age of 18. Those young people are growing up in a world very different than the one I grew up in, and they are connected in ways that I could never have imagined even 10 years ago. The jobs and opportunities that they need and deserve will not be created by governments alone, no matter how large the public sector grows. While traditional corporations and established industries are very important, the fact is they are unlikely to create all the jobs needed for the future. So what needs to be done is to tap the creativity and innovation of citizens, men and women alike. I like to say that talent is universal but opportunity is not. We can begin to change that if we find ways to unleash people’s potential and help good ideas take root and flourish. Potential entrepreneurs are all around us. They are anyone with the imagination to conceive of a new product, process or service, who have the ability, persistence and sheer work ethic to turn that idea into something real. We need to tackle the obstacles that entrepreneurs face. These include cumbersome government regulations, corrupt officials who demand a bribe before issuing a business permit, cultural norms that might prevent women from handling money or owning land and similar challenges. The US wants to work with Indonesia to bring down these barriers. That means reducing the time it takes to open a business here in this region. That means making it easier for foreign investors to find local projects worthy of support, and that means connecting entrepreneurs with the domestic and foreign investors they need to further their goals. That means also improving the business climate by ensuring the protection of intellectual property rights. If someone comes up with a good idea they need to be sure it is protected, so that they can then make the most of it. That is why we created the Global Entrepreneurship Programme and why we support initiatives such as “Partnerships For a New Beginning”, which recently opened a local chapter in Indonesia. It is a pleasure to know that Indonesia is one of the five countries around the world in which the US will begin work to foster angel investor groups and to connect them with a variety of start-ups and entrepreneurs.
We want to see stories that are successes repeated here in Indonesia, across the ASEAN region, and around the world. We want to see this happen because it will help make a more prosperous, peaceful and secure world. If people are given the opportunity to live up to their own God-given potential, they are more likely to make a contribution to their families, communities, countries and indeed the world. We’re also doing it because we think it works and our own experience demonstrates that.
We have seen over now 235 years, but particularly in the last 150 years, people come from many of the ASEAN nations to our country with nothing in their pocket except a big dream that they hope to be able to realise. And yes, they worked hard, but they had worked hard back home. So we know this works. Furthermore, we know too that free and open societies are much more likely to derive benefits from more people over a longer period of time than any other kind of society.
It is not only a chance to vote in elections, it is not only a free press, or democratic institutions in a government that is transparent and accountable and produces results for people.
Open societies have a free market and an economy that works for people who get up every day and work hard to realise and further their goals. Entrepreneurs can help to shape the future, not only with their product or service, but with their dreams.
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