After the global pandemic decimated its tourism industry, Indonesia is slowly winning back its economic strength by embracing grass-root industries, researchers say.
Indonesia is currently fighting 1.7 million COVID infections and has recorded 47,000 fatalities since the pandemic began in March last year.
Travel restrictions into one of Australia’s most popular international tourist destinations Bali, has destroyed the Indonesian island’s life blood.
While recent news reports paint a bleak picture for the nation’s economy, UWA Asian studies association professor Dr David Bourchier said Indonesia – as a whole – does not depend only on international tourism.
“Its economy is quite similar to Australia’s in that it relies mainly on the export of commodities…Bali however, relies quite heavily on tourism, and has therefore suffered badly from the pandemic,” Dr Bourchier said.
Bali’s tourism industry is worth nearly 50 per cent of Indonesia’s regional domestic product, and this has been decimated by the pandemic. Most tourism industry workers have returned to their home villages.
This does not, however, signal that all is lost for the Indonesian economy, Dr Bourchier says.
According to Murdoch University’s Asian studies expert Dr Carol Warren, Indonesia has not always been so reliant on tourism.
“Indonesia has been traditionally dependent primarily on agriculture, Bali and Java have been dependent on rice production, but over the last several decades large numbers of workers have moved into tourism, construction and manufacturing,” Dr Warren said.
In fact, 60 per cent of Indonesians are actually “petani” (farmers), she says.
It was this traditional industry that proved the best able to survive a pandemic.
“Tourism, construction and manufacturing have been hardest hit, but local fishing and agricultural production seem relatively resilient,” Dr Warren said.
ACICIS program assistant Ms Diana Pramesti, who lives in Bali, described the impact of the pandemic on her home.
“Seeing Bali during the pandemic is terrible and sad, economically…however, the impact of [the] pandemic raised another opportunity in society.
“Some people start thinking of a resilient job in the tourism sector or what they called regenerative tourism,” Ms Pramesti said.
“One of them is agriculture.”
“At least [in] my circle, they decided to go back to farming or initiate stronger community movement[s] to combat uncertainty in the future—like a pandemic.”
Perth USAsia Centre senior analyst Kyle Springer says it seems quite possible that the Indonesian economy will bounce back from the blow the pandemic has dealt.
“I’m positive about the future of Indonesia,” Mr Springer said.
“If it can get its domestic policy settings right, attract more foreign investment, [and] continue to close its infrastructure gap, then it can make a full economic recovery.”
The Perth Indonesian Embassy, the Australia Indonesia Youth Association, Balai Bahasa Indonesia Perth, and multiple academics, were contacted for comment.