The President Wants Me to Carry On
Minister of Research and Technology/Chair of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Bambang Brodjonegoro said he received full support from President Joko Widodo who asked BRIN to start working immediately. He also said that he had disagreements with the Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Tjahjo Kumolo.
SINCE his inauguration as Research and Technology Minister and National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Chairman in October 2019, Bambang Permadi Soemantri Brodjonegoro has been working like for a non-governmental organization. Most of the echelon I officials in his office have not been officially appointed. “Everyone is an acting chief, or rather, volunteers,” said Bambang while laughing. This is inevitable because the presidential regulation on the formation of BRIN had not been passed.
In an all-out, two-hour interview with Tempo on February 12, Bambang, the former minister of finance and minister for development planning, revealed the many difficulties he is facing. The differing views in the cabinet regarding the structure and position of BRIN impede his dream of improving the research ecosystem in Indonesia. “I’ve tried to solve it internally, but it has not been successful,” he said in the interview that was held online.
Why is it important to resolve the confusions surrounding the presidential regulation on the formation of BRIN?
Innovation is the key to our future successes. It is a long journey to reach, and we must start building the foundation now. Innovations must become the mainstream, not just complementary. The formation of BRIN as an organization is part of this foundation. The fact that we still haven’t completed the structure of BRIN shows exactly where our priorities are. Implicitly, this implies that researches and innovations are not strategic sectors.
How will researches and innovations accelerate Indonesia’s development?
It began with President Joko Widodo’s discontent after noticing how we have plenty of researches everywhere, yet they are disorganized and not showing results. There are research and development activities in all ministries, but they are being neglected. There is inefficiency, repetitiveness and duplication. BRIN is designed to bring it all together.
The function of BRIN is to build a healthy research ecosystem so that our economic development is based on innovation. We want investments that come into Indonesia to be accompanied by innovation, so that the products will become Indonesia’s added value. That’s what China and Korea did. We can no longer allow investors enter Indonesia just for the sake of cheap labor or free land.
So, what are the fundamental issues hindering the promulgation of the presidential regulation on BRIN?
There are people with different perceptions and interpretations about the structure and institution of BRIN. The agency was formed under Article 48 of Law No. 11/2019 on the national system of science and technology. So the authority lies with the President. If anyone thinks that BRIN is better off separated from the research and technology ministry, it is beyond my authority. I only carry out a presidential decree appointing me as minister of research and technology/chair of BRIN. If the organizations are separated, there needs to be a cabinet reshuffle.
Is it true that you did not accommodate suggestions to establish a steering committee for BRIN, as well as the structure, as requested by the minister for administrative reform?
I did have disagreements with the Minister for Administrative Reform, Pak Tjahjo Kumolo, at the end of 2019, regarding the format of this institution. At that time, I emphasized that this is my organization, and not to force me to run other people’s ideas.
The existence of a steering committee in BRIN has no basis in the law. In accordance with the presidential decree, BRIN is an agency run by the ministry. It’s the same as the National Development Planning Agency or the National Land Agency.
So what are the solutions?
The two of us came to President Joko Widodo, seeking for a way out. From that meeting, it was agreed that I was asked to carry on.
I then made some adjustments. I reduced the number of the deputies from what was originally planned. In March 2020, a presidential regulation draft on BRIN was agreed between the administrative reform ministry and the research and technology ministry/BRIN. The draft was then sent to the state secretariat to be signed by the President.
What I know is that the state secretariat has submitted the presidential decree to the justice and human rights ministry. The ministry should not be in a decisive position, because that decision was already made when the President signed the presidential decree.
Did you ask the justice and human rights minister about it?
I asked him repeatedly. I understand that he is not in a position where he is free to make decisions. He had proposed that we seek solutions (for) a new format of BRIN. But obviously that is not my call. If he wants a different solution, it has to go through the president.