Natural resources management, particularly in the extractives industry, can make a meaningful contribution to a country’s economic growth when it leads to linkages to the broader economy. To maximize the economic benefits of extractives, the sector needs to broaden its use of non-mining goods and services and policymakers need to ensure that the sectors infrastructure needs are closely aligned with those of the country’s development plans.
In Africa, especially, mining and other companies that handle natural resources traditionally provide their own power, railways, roads, and services to run their operations. This “enclave” approach to infrastructure development is not always aligned with national infrastructure development plans.
In the previous decade the government opted for interventionist policies aiming to develop an industrial base and jumpstart a knowledge economy. More recently, as a reaction to declining oil prices and economic sanctions, the Anti-Crisis Plan launched by the Government in January 2015 fleshes out an active import substitution strategy to replace imports with domestic production. So far, 19 roadmaps have been adopted to promote import substitution in a number of priority sectors, including metallurgy, agriculture, machine-building, chemicals, light industry, as well as the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Indonesia finds itself at a crossroads on the trade policy map. A turn in one direction may mean more openness and greater regional integration. A turn the other way—more protectionism and economic nationalism. Those advocating for the proper course share common concerns: the country’s increasing current account imbalance, deindustrialization in sectors built on booming commodity prices, and rising imports of intermediate inputs.
This last factor is perhaps most contentious. There are concerns that an increased reliance on imported inputs will slash domestic jobs and the local value added to exports. But are concerns about increased reliance on imported intermediates justified?
Many resource-rich countries are looking to diversify their economies, in anticipation of the day their natural wealth runs out. Resource extraction is extremely costly and employs only a fraction of the workforce. After the recent turmoil in the Middle East, policy makers have begun focusing more on the need to create jobs, provide for inclusion, and increase public participation in government decision-making. There are several examples of countries that have used their resource wealth to share prosperity, including the United States, Norway, and Australia.
But is there a blueprint for diversification and economic prosperity?