Five Questions: Prof. Raymond Saner

Published : 15 April 2015

By: Devina Heriyanto

Raymond Saner is a Professor Titular in Economics Department at Basle University and also a Professor at Sciences Po, in Paris and at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW). He is the author behind The Expert Negotiator and the founders of CSEND.org and DiplomacyDialogue.org. He has taught at the School of Government & Public Policy, Indonesia.

Prof. Saner spoke exclusively to Strategic Review about diplomacy, foreign policy and bilateral relations.

1. In Diplomacy Dialogue, you mention several dimensions of diplomacy. Which one do you think is the most crucial? Which do you think that Indonesia should focus on?

For Indonesia, I suggest that a combination of economic, commercial and social diplomacy would offer the best success for a sustained development strategy.  Let me expand on this by narrating the following story. I have debated choices of development strategy for India with a well-known Indian trade economist, Jagdish Bhagwati. He is convinced that what India needs is economic development first and once it has reached a sufficient level of economic development, then there will be enough financial resources to take care of social policies like combatting poverty and providing basic education and health development. In other words, he prescribes to India a two-step model, first economic development, then later social development.

There is also another famous economist, also of Indian origin, Amartya Sen. He states that there is no need to wait until some unknown time when India will be enough developed and then it will be able to afford health, education, sanitation, and proper life. Instead, he suggests that India could pursue both goals at the same time that is economic and social development and gives the example of Scandinavian countries that were able to develop out of poverty by pursuing at the same time economic and social development.

I agree with Amartya Sen. I don’t think one should only focus on economic development. Because at the worst case, even if a poor country becomes more economically developed at some unknown future time, there will most likely be unequal economic development with large parts of the population remaining in poverty. Your newly elected President Jokowi [Joko Widodo] said during his visit to Japan that Indonesia also needs to improve its infrastructure (roads, ports, airports) in order to successfully embark on economic development. The Asian Development Bank and other development banks make a distinction between social infrastructure and physical infrastructure. Physical infrastructure means roads, buildings etc. While social infrastructure relates to mostly institution development and professional competencies (Urban development, sanitation, building engineering, sustainability engineering, facilities management, medical facilities, and schools). These social infrastructures, from my point of view, should also be developed to harmonize the purely “hardware” with the corresponding “software”.  

I would say that economic development should have an integrated, inclusive development strategy, which should focus on physical and social infrastructure simultaneously to make development sustainable and as much equitable as possible. In order to obtain cooperation from other countries to develop its “hard and software”, skillful use of economic, commercial, trade and social diplomacies are called for since most of the development challenges for Indonesia are cross-border issues (e.g. investment, migration, tourism) which required an appropriate mix of domestic and international policies and interventions. For more information on the different forms of diplomacies see: www.diplomacydialogue.org


2. One of the essences of diplomacy, foreign policy, or any policy in general is to achieve national interests, and this has been significantly shown by Joko Widodo’s administration. However, this new attitude has brought many critics. What do you think of this issue?

The first time I visited and reflected on Indonesia’s development challenges was thirty years ago, so I have seen Indonesia in different situations. One anecdote could be narrated here which I heard often ever since I visited Indonesia. It’s risky to make generalizations, but one statement seems to hold despite many years of development and change and that is that a good number of foreigners say that Indonesians are very nice people, they’re very friendly, but often times they [the foreigners] don’t know what Indonesians really want or think. Indonesians are careful not to say things that could be offensive to foreigners, which is an attitude which largely also holds for citizens of other Asian countries but seems particularly prevalent in Indonesia.

By avoiding stating clearly what Indonesians need, their foreign counterparts might be misled in believing that what they have suggested has been accepted by their Indonesian counterparts.  The traditional polite and conflict avoiding attitude is not helpful for the future of Indonesia. I don’t mean to say that Indonesia should go back to Soekarno, with his anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism and anti-foreigners konfrontasi policies. What I mean is that it would be useful for Indonesia’s partners if Indonesian’s would be more forthcoming with what they want and expect from other countries. Indonesians could benefit from becoming able to manage international relations more effectively if they would adopt the ability to be, at the same time, able to confront and to cooperate, as seen as useful and required by the situation and interests at hand.  


3. We know that Indonesian diplomats abroad are often faced with the same mission: to save the lives of our citizens (there are more than 300 Indonesian abroad on death row, 230 of which due to drug charges). Do you think it is a wise move from Jokowi's administration to keep pushing the execution of two of the “Bali Nine”, considering that doing so will reflect the hypocrisy in our foreign policy?

I wouldn’t call this hypocrisy. If the country really implements such a draconian policy where drug smuggling is punishable by death, it would only be hypocritical if Indonesia wants foreign countries to apply more lenient measures against Indonesian smugglers while Indonesia applies tough sanctions on foreigners being accused of the same or similar charges.

I imagine that most Indonesian ambassadors are doing their job correctly, which means that they make sure that those Indonesians who are accused of drug smuggling are given access to appropriate legal rights and face a fair court case. This is important because drug smugglers in the past have used naïve people to transport drugs who then got caught and subsequently face the death penalty abroad. To summarize: if Indonesian ambassadors do their job correctly, they will do their utmost to make sure that Indonesian citizens facing the death penalty have at least been given a fair trial and evidence has been presented by the foreign authorities that is convincing and beyond doubt of having been manipulated. The same holds for Indonesian law enforcement and the application of the death penalty for drug smuggling. Indonesian laws and criminal investigations should provide clear evidence of trespassing of Indonesian laws and provide transparent and due course of justice. The same rules should be applied abroad as well as in Indonesia, then no accusation of hypocrisy can be raised against Indonesia.  


4. How do you think these executions, which from Jokowi’s point of view would serve as a shock therapy to drug addicts, will impact the future of our bilateral relations with the involved countries?

This leads to a bigger question, what causes drug addiction? Take the US for an example. The American government has tried to fight drug abuse by trying to eradicate production of cocaine and heroin in other countries like Colombia, Bolivia or Afghanistan. The strategy of the US government is to destroy supply, which would in turn reduce drug consumption since drug addicts would have less drugs available to consume. However, this has not worked because eradication of coca production in, for example, Columbia, was not successful and drugs still were produced and smuggled into the US. The other point here is that if there is a demand for drugs, people will find a way to get drugs. The US strategy does not address sufficiently the reasons why so many US citizens crave drugs. If it is not addressing the demand side, eradication of drug production abroad will not be successful. At the same time, regulators should inform themselves what medical and behavioral scientists have to say in regard to soft and hard drugs to avoid simplistic black and white solutions which oftentimes cause additional problems in addition to the one that is being focused on. If President Jokowi wants to create a message for foreigners stating  “Watch out, if you come to Indonesia and you are caught, you’ll face the death penalty” that would be a threat that could have a serious negative impact on tourism development for Indonesia if not explained and if not accompanied by transparent legal proceedings. Without clear public diplomacy, clarifying the intention of the draconian law and giving assurances of a transparent and evidence based legal system, such a tough policy could backfire and cause unintended economic consequences and an impaired diplomatic reputation.  


5. Lastly, you have experienced teaching at the School of Government and Public Policy (SGPP). What do you think of SGPP's role in educating future policy makers in Indonesia?

The course I taught last year at the SGPP was negotiation skills (multilateral, trilateral, bilateral, and multi-institutional). The students were very good and I enjoyed teaching at the SGPP. The original goal of the SGPP was that the students would become policy analysts and competent civil servants. That’s what I remember was the main educational orientation under the leadership of Professor Erhard Friedberg. I do not know the new orientation of the school - is it more public affairs or public administration? Or a new integration of both? In general, the following observation holds for similar kind of schools of government and public policies. 

Before starting a new school like SGPP, there needs to be an agreement by the founders as to what a school like SGPP should be - should it be an academic institution for young graduate students or a training institution for civil servants? If academic, then policy analysis and ability to compare, critique and propose alternative policy options are expected and would be graded according to established academic criteria. If, however, the intention is to mostly provide skills sets for civil servants, then academic standards become less important and the emulation of skills considered “correct” take precedence over critical thinking. 

Examples of more academic schools of public policy and public administration are SIPA of Columbia University, NY; LSE London; and Sciences Po, Paris. Examples of higher training institutions for public servants are the Lee Kuan Yew school of Public Policy or the ENA in Paris (Ecole National d’Administration). The academically oriented higher learning institutions value critical thinking, the ability to write policy papers of academic standards, comparative public policy and academic research (quantative and qualitative methods) and emphasis is given to empirical data collection and inductive reasoning. The higher level training institutions value learning by emulation, narrative methodology, eloquent presentations of policy opinions, story telling (of successful policies) and deductive reasoning.

The academic institutions are more oriented towards analyzing and improving policy effectiveness, while the higher training institutions value skills training and efficiency of policy implementation. The shortcomings of both orientations are the overemphasis of intellectual discourse and the lack of relational skills for the academic institutions and under-development of critical thinking, research capabilities and regional preference over global comparative strategies.

I wish the new SGPP success in finding the best possible integration of the public policy and public administration streams, and success in innovative learning with adequate breathing space for debate and search for alternative policy options within the domestic and regional realities, but also beyond the confining limits of regional particularities.

 It could, for instance, be very useful for future SGPP students to visit Geneva and to find out in detail what the international agreements entail for Indonesia (trade, labor, environment, health, human rights, development) and how these agreements are being negotiated by the UN member countries. This is of particular importance now as all of the UN member countries will be reaching an agreement in September 2015 on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which every country agrees to implement at home in a transparent, participatory and inclusive manner, coupled with regular reviews and monitoring of implementation.





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