Indonesia’s Jokowi Wants Growth. And Something More

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In upsetting everyone’s best-laid plans, the pandemic has made us aware of the fallibility of our single-minded pursuit of peak efficiency. Among those seeking a more decompressed future, in which there’s a better balance between today’s rewards and tomorrow’s risks, is Joko Widodo. The president of Indonesia has his own compass to navigate the post-Covid-19 world: a two-year stint at a remote pulp mill in his early youth. 

His search for answers, Widodo told me in a Zoom interview Wednesday, is taking him back to Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra. That’s where as a forestry graduate, the future furniture businessman-turned-politician had landed his first job, living with his wife, Iriana, deep in the jungles, a seven-hour ride from the provincial capital, which itself is 2,200 kilometers (1,367 miles) from home on the main island, Java. 

“As we pursue our right to development, I know what it’s like to be dependent on forests for livelihood,” he says. To prolong the riches of the country’s resources, he wants to reforest over 130,000 hectares (321,000 acres) — an area as large as Los Angeles — this year, make Indonesia a hub for electric vehicles, promote furniture made only with certified timber, and raise the contribution of renewable power to 31% by 2050, from just 11% now. “It's about striking a balance,” he says.

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