Politicians, educators and experts agreed at a seminar Thursday that to compete globally, Indonesia must improve its human resources and public services.
Seminar participants, including former Jakarta deputy governor Bunyamin Ramto, former East Java governor Basofi Sudirman, agricultural activist Fadli Zon and social observer Abdul Radjak, concluded that the poor quality of public services in the country has affected the nation economically and psychologically, decreasing the confidence of the people.
Education expert Arief Rachman said that in order to help Indonesians overcome their poor sense of self-worth, it was imperative to prioritize character building and arm people with a greater understanding and respect for their local cultures.
"It is fine to take lessons from other countries, but it is more important to value local cultural traits such as tolerance," he said.
He also expressed concern that Indonesians have a tendency to underestimate themselves and consider their nation inferior to other countries. This attitude could have a negative psychological impact that could hinder the development of human resources here.
"First of all, we have to understand that we are not inferior to other nations. We have to be confident with ourselves," Arief said.
Meanwhile, Firmansyah Rahim from the Culture and Tourism Ministry said service is one of the most crucial aspects of the tourism industry, as it directly affects consumer satisfaction. Therefore, improving areas such as infrastructure, visa and documentation processing and air travel would be beneficial.
"Besides the country's cultural uniqueness and beautiful natural environment, improving public services in tourism-related institutions will surely have a positive impact on the tourism industry," he said.
Basofi Sudirman said the participation of Indonesians in the tourism industry would be beneficial, particularly if a "service" attitude was adopted that was favorable to tourists.
"We have to improve our human resources and people need to understand that tourism can have economic benefits for them too," he said, adding that a sense of belonging was essential to improve the public's participation in the industry.
The tourism industry has contributed greatly to the national economy throughout the last few years. Data from the Central Statistics Agency indicate that in 2005 the industry contributed more than US$5 billion to the national economy, second only to the oil and gas industry.
In 2006, the contribution from tourism increased to approximately US$5.1 billion, with 4.8 million overseas visitors.(01)