About the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR)

The context

When Joko “Jokowi” Widodo became President of Indonesia in 2014, one of his boldest policy moves was to spend big on infrastructure. After decades of under-spending, Indonesia was being left behind with a massive infrastructure gap. In his national plan, he made accelerating infrastructure investment his priority. He pledged to build kilometres of roads, toll-roads and railways. He identified fixing port infrastructure, the shipping industry and maritime tourism as important for improving connectivity. He increased spending on distribution networks and lowered logistics costs to enhance competitiveness. He also committed to spending more than half of the national budget outside Java to address regional inequality.

The problem

As an archipelagic nation, Indonesia’s challenge is connectivity. Connecting port to city to rural to islands is vital for poverty alleviation and for sustainable rural development and urbanisation. By investing in infrastructure that links cities, towns, villages and islands, these new connections will open up new possibilities. The stronger physical linkages between roads, rail, seaports and airports have the potential to stimulate the local economy, boost commodities and transform communities.

Yet, experience shows that investments in connectivity do not necessarily benefit local communities if they are not ‘people-centric’, that is sustainable, affordable and accessible. For instance, businesses are unable to realise a transport’s potential without good planning and design of infrastructure. Or poor intermodal connectivity, scheduling and intervention to encourage use. Moreover, people are likely to remain disadvantaged if they lack the knowledge needed to take advantage of opportunities, and if they lack access to resources, or the skills required to thrive and enterprise.

Our theme

The Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR) is a development initiative that focuses on the theme: ‘Connectivity, People and Place’.

We seek to better understand the challenges and opportunities presented by Indonesia’s rapid physical and economic development. Over 2019-2022, we focus on a segment of Indonesia’s ambitious Trans-Sulawesi railway network infrastructure. By 2024, the Government of Indonesia plans to complete a new 145-kilometre railway line connecting two major port cities: Makassar and Parepare. The railway line is part of the government’s priority focus on Eastern Indonesia and positioning South Sulawesi as a gateway to the region. Along with the railway line, a new port is being built, new industrial zones emerging and fresh investments flowing.

We focus on the new connectivity and communities along the railway line. We investigate what the railway lines mean for local communities, how they respond to change, and how they can take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Our objective

PAIR’s objective is to contribute to sustainable development priorities through evidence-based decision making. By the end of the program, PAIR Research will have been used to address key policy and development challenges and there will be a sustainable PAIR knowledge network which provides a replicable model for evidence-based enquiry to respond to complex development challenges.

Our focus

We focus on four areas: commodities; transport, logistics and supply chain; young people, health and wellbeing; and young people and development.

We examine the areas as integrated, encompassing gender and social inclusion. Our research anchors on one commodity, seaweed, and the new Makassar-Parepare railway development. We focus on young people aged between 16 and 30, Indonesia’s largest demographic group.

By concentrating on a single commodity and linking it to the new transport connectivity and young people, it enables us to evaluate how improved transport linkages influence agricultural sector productivity, commodity value chains and community health, wellbeing, skills and enterprise development.

Our COVID-19 response and policy alignment

PAIR aligns with the Australian Government’s Partnerships for Recovery – Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response, which emphasises the importance of evidence-based intervention. PAIR focuses on issues relevant to the pandemic and delivers timely evidence-based advice to policy makers via the COVID-19 Rapid Research initiative.

PAIR also aligns with:

PAIR also responds to the three areas of focus expressed in the Economic Cooperation Program (Katalis), within the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA): greater market access, better integrated markets and enhanced skills.

PAIR and sustainable development goals

PAIR’s research theme relates directly to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly:

  • GOAL 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

PAIR addresses this goal through our research on the links between poverty and nutrition, and improving the production and sustainability of seaweed farming in South Sulawesi.

  • GOAL 8: Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth through employment and access to work.

We are supporting human capital development in Indonesia through research that identifies the skills gaps and needs of young people to support their participation and success in the workforce.

  • GOAL 9: Resilient infrastructure for inclusive and sustainable industrialisation.

Our research is examining the construction of intermodal transport systems, and how greater rural-urban connectivity can improve the lives of local communities via increased mobility and economic activities.

Our partners

PAIR is a development initiative supported by the Australian Government.