Managing Director Christine Lagarde tells the youth to be like the Garuda and imitate its virtues of power, prosperity and wisdom.
JAKARTA, Indonesia – “You will usher in the next phase of Indonesia’s transformation. Into an economy that is not ony vibrant and inclusive, but also outward-looking and ready to take its rightful place on the global stage.”
These were the words of International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde to students at the University of Indonesia on Tuesday, September 1. (READ Full text: Christine Lagarde on Indonesia’s Economic Potential)
Lagarde said it is about time that the “fourth largest and most youthful population” play a “lead role in the global economy,” and asked the youth to think of themselves as the Garuda, the country’s emblem.
She said the youth must harness the virtues of the mythical bird, specifically power, prosperity and wisdom – to unleash generation’s potential.
Her visit comes as Asian financial markets experience heightened volatility because of China’s economic slowdown and markets suffer, along with failing commodity prices that have affected Indonesia and other emerging-market economies and their currencies.
Lagarde said global economic growth is weaker than anticipated but that Asia continues to lead global growth – albeit at a slower pace.
For Indonesia, this means several things.
Lagarde said Indonesia must adjust to China’s economic slowdown as the superpower adjusts to a new growth model. Plus, with commodity prices dropping, demand for Indonesia’s goods is expected to weaken as well. Indonesia, she said, must adjust to both.
Additionally, with advanced economies like the United States recovering, emerging economies like Indonesia must learn to be more resilient, which the country can achieve by keeping it’s growth momentum – “for the Garuda to have power,” said Lagarde.
“Clearly, this (global) slowdown need not be permanent. Indonesia can shift to a higher growth trajectory. But it needs to get on the right side of ongoing shifts in the global economic and financial landscape,” she said.
“How? By taking full advantage of its potential.”
‘Shake the world’
The good news, Lagarde said, is that Indonesia has so many young people whom “it can draw upon for many years to come,” citing that more than 70% of the population in 2030 will be of working age, which translates to 180 million young people.
Lagarde also quoted former Indonesian leader Sukarno, saying, “Give me 1000 men, I will move the mountain. But give me 1 youth and I will shake the world.”
But Lagarde also said the youth can “shake the world” only if the government does its job by decreasing unemployment especially among their generation, as well as minimizing income inequality.
“Now is the time to embark on bold reforms that will further modernize its economy, create jobs for its youth, and make it fit for a 21st century global leader. It needs to lay the foundations for future prosperity – the Garuda’s second virtue,” she said of Indonesia.
She also said that the youth must now think outside of Indonesia and “make the whole world your playground.”
“This is achievable, by developing the economy’s potential in manufacturing, agriculture and services. By generating opportunities for all. And by building a world class infrastructure of physical and human capital,” she said, emphasizing the need for the government to focus on infrastructure, investment and trade.
Importance of inclusive growth
Lagarde also highlighted the need to ensure that economic growth will not only benefit certain people but all Indonesians including the youth and women, who remain excluded.
“What is needed are policies to ease labor mobility and encourage the employment of youth in higher value added activities. It also means higher investment in the skilling of Indonesia’s youth and nurturing their entrepreneurship skills,” she said.
Lagarde said an inclusive society is important because it empowers individuals, and “you need inspiration for your generation to become the ‘change agents’ you are destined to be.”
But she also said it is important for them to harness “wisdom” – the Garuda’s third virtue – in order to shake the world, because the youth will eventually “lead this change.”
Lagarde especially emphasized the “critical” need to harness the power of technology to share their ideas to the rest of the world, citing Nadiem Makarim, the founder of Gojek as an excellent example.
“Your voice, your actions today matter. Your generation can be the ‘change agents’ not just for a better Indonesia, but for a better world. A wise change agent is a responsible global citizen,” she said.
She added, “Your country has immense potential, and its destiny lies in your hands. You will be the leaders of the change that will enable Indonesia to soar to new heights.”