INDONESIA HAS all the proper elements to make it one of the crucial influential international locations in Asia. However Joko Widodo, the president, has caught to its lengthy custom of foreign-policy non-alignment and inward-looking insurance policies. On February 14th the world’s third-biggest democracy will vote for a brand new chief. The favorite is Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general with an appalling human-rights document. The 2 different candidates, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, each former governors, are trailing Mr Prabowo in the polls. 4 charts and a map illustrate the nation’s big potential.
First think about Indonesia’s sheer dimension. When a map of the sprawling archipelago is superimposed on one in all Eurasia it stretches from Eire all the best way to Turkmenistan. The inhabitants is unfold throughout 1000’s of islands, some teeming with individuals, farms and factories. Its difficult geography has inspired a digital services boom. Jakarta, the capital, has develop into one in all South-East Asia’s most profitable incubators of recent know-how firms. Almost four-fifths of Indonesians personal smartphones—connecting the nation as never before.
Jokowi, because the president is understood, has additionally constructed scores of airports, ports and dams and a whole lot of kilometres of toll roads, incomes him the nickname of builder-in-chief. His largest venture has been the deliberate relocation of the capital to East Kalimantan in jap Borneo. The controversial $32bn project will now fall to his successor.
Indonesia’s demography is a crucial potential asset. It’s the world’s fourth-most populous nation, with 276m individuals, making it a huge shopper market. And it’s younger: 25% of the inhabitants is below 15 and solely 7% are over 65.
Indonesia’s 200m eligible voters have nurtured the younger democracy. Political debates within the run-up to this yr’s election have been watched by roughly 100m individuals and marketing campaign rallies have develop into a bit extra targeted on the problems and fewer on pomp and fanfare. Turnout this yr is predicted to be excessive. However a win for Mr Prabowo could jeopardise the nation’s democratic progress.
Although Jokowi has not introduced the 7% annual financial progress that he promised, Indonesia has been one of many world’s best-performing economies in recent times. It’s the sixth-biggest rising market by GDP, and its GDP per individual exceeds India’s and Vietnam’s when adjusted for buying energy. If Indonesia stays on this path for the following decade, it might develop into one of many world’s ten largest economies.
However huge challenges stay for Jokowi’s successor. For one factor, progress has been patchy. Jakarta’s GDP per individual rose to round $19,000 in 2022. In central Java, a close-by province, it was beneath $3,000. Some far-flung islands are even poorer. And as soon as an financial system has reached Indonesia’s present degree of improvement, progress on the tempo Jokowi and his followers have promised turns into a lot more durable.
The spine of Indonesia’s financial system is commodities, a few of that are in world demand owing to the power transition. Its manufacturing of nickel, utilized in electric-vehicle batteries, dwarfs that of the remainder of the world. Analysis by The Economist means that by 2030 Indonesia may very well be the world’s fourth-largest producer of inexperienced commodities, behind Australia, Chile and Mongolia.
The federal government has banned exports of a few of these minerals, pushing multinational companies to construct refineries domestically (a coverage referred to as “downstreaming”). Indonesia goals to make electric-car batteries with a complete capability of 140GWh in 2030—nearly as a lot as world manufacturing in 2020. (The development of other battery sorts, that don’t include nickel, could dent its progress.)
Indonesia’s mixture of location, dimension and sources make it a key theatre in superpower rivalries. Investments have poured in from each America and China, although the Chinese language have invested considerably extra.
The subsequent president faces two difficulties. First, if Sino-American tensions escalate, tariffs or sanctions would possibly hit Chinese language companies that Indonesia relies on. Second, downstreaming could also be working for nickel, however might backfire in different sectors. Indonesia’s solar-power business, for instance, has been hampered by authorities laws. Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, which place fewer restrictions on exterior buyers, are extra engaging locations for companies trying to transfer their provide chains away from China.
Whoever strikes into Indonesia’s presidential palace will assist decide whether or not the nation lives as much as its big potential.■