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Our Mission: Turning Cooperatives into Tools for Equity and Self-Sufficiency

By Prabowo Subianto, excerpted from “National Transformation Strategy: Towards a Golden Indonesia 2045,” pages 211-212, fourth softcover edition.

Cooperatives are fundamentally about leveling the playing field. They exist to empower those at a disadvantage, which is why their revitalization within our economy is crucial.

This doesn’t imply, however, that we should bolster cooperatives at the private sector’s expense. Far from it. Our economic doctrine encourages competition: let the private sector, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and cooperatives all vie for progress.

But it’s the cooperatives that are tasked with supporting or empowering the less privileged. This principle isn’t about creating opposition but about moving forward together.

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Thus, the private sector, SOEs, and cooperatives alike have roles to play in propelling our nation’s economy. Each, with its unique strengths, can contribute significantly. This approach has seen success in countries like Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China.

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There was a time when Indonesian cooperatives were the envy of many nations, who came to learn from our initiatives like BIMAS and BULOG, and our journey to self-sufficiency.

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I am firmly convinced that with proper leadership, cooperatives in Indonesia can flourish and become powerful tools for equity.

Yes, there will be challenges and failures.

For example, let’s talk about fertilizer production and distribution. Fertilizer is produced by state-owned factories, by the people, right? The people’s money built those factories. The working capital is the people’s money. But, once the fertilizer is produced and ready for distribution, it ends up in the hands of private distributors. During President Suharto’s era, the New Order era, it wasn’t like this. Fertilizer distribution was handled by cooperatives, village unit cooperatives (KUD).

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Because some viewed cooperatives as not aligning with free market principles, they were swapped out for private firms. With privatization, distribution fell into the hands of limited liability companies (PTs), ushering in a scenario all too familiar in Indonesia, right? Nepotism took center stage.

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So, we need to return to the fundamentals, to the correct principles. This is the people’s property, built with the people’s money, funded by the national budget – the people’s money; its distribution should also be by the people, through cooperatives and the government if necessary.

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Beyond being tools for equity, cooperatives can also drive our self-sufficiency. But this requires a concerted effort, thought, and serious commitment. We can’t treat this as business as usual. This is not an ordinary task. We must approach it as a national endeavor.

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