Indonesia’s Next Policy Leaders Graduate

After 18 months of intensive study in Atlanta, 15 Indonesian graduate students will return to their home country later this month. Their last order of business before they depart? Picking up their degrees from Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at the fall commencement ceremony.

With two and a half years of advanced studies behind them, these students have earned two master’s degrees in applied economics — one at home and one abroad — and are ready to rejoin the Indonesian workforce as leaders in the next generation of fiscal policy experts.

This cohort is the first of two in a dual-degree program supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Indonesia. The program between Gadjah Mada University, in central Java, and Georgia State was announced in 2010.

About three-quarters of the students are civil servants on leave from their posts in the Ministry of Finance in Indonesia. The rest came to the program from academia, think tanks and provincial governments. The second wave of 15 Indonesian students arrived on campus in July 2012.

“The program provided me foundations and a set of ideas on how to implement those foundations in policy issues back home,” says Marthunis Muhammad, who will rejoin the Provincial Development Planning Agency in Aceh upon his return. He was inspired by the recent U.S. presidential campaign when “policy debates were always in the air,” he says, to help initiate such dynamic debates back in Indonesia.

Wahyu Hidayat, returning to his position as a researcher in the Fiscal Policy Office of the Ministry of Finance, says his time at the Andrew Young School has developed his critical thinking skills on economic issues, which will make his analyses more meaningful.

A similar short-term international program supporting two cohorts of Indonesian students started at Georgia State in 2002. One graduate of that program, Arti Adji-Kompas, stayed on to complete her doctorate before returning to her home country and now runs the Indonesian side of the program as director of the economics program at Gadjah Mada. Also in 2002, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, formerly Indonesia’s minister of finance and now managing director at the World Bank, was an Andrew Young School visiting scholar.

The Andrew Young School has been working on projects in Indonesia for more than a decade with the Ministry of Finance, the World Bank and USAID. The goal of this partnership, according to program director, International Studies Program director and Regents’ Professor of Economics Jorge Martinez-Vasquez, is to bolster the Indonesian Ministry of Finance with a critical mass of civil servants trained to do fiscal policy analysis.

Economics Department Chair and Professor Sally Wallace has mentored and taught students from both USAID-funded dual-degree programs for Indonesian students and says the model has been a successful one.

“There’s something to be gained by bringing a cohort of students that spend all this time together. Indonesia is a big country, and many of these people did not know each other before they got here,” Wallace says. “A lot of those folks are still working together and they’ve gone on to places like the World Bank. It’s really had an impact on the policy and ability to analyze policy in the country.”

Dec. 10, 2012