Please tell us something about yourself, and your professional trajectory before joining the Bank.
I would like to think my career has been exciting; I have had an opportunity to work across a variety of sectors, including academia, international organizations, and government in areas related to international trade, investment, and development. I’m excited to join the World Bank and bring this experience to making an impact on the lives of the poor globally. Nearly thirty years ago, I had wanted to join the World Bank after completing my graduate studies in Australia and California. But my father insisted I serve my nation first. So back I went to Indonesia. I started out in academia and did research and advocacy for an independent think tank, this sparked a love for learning I have to this day. I served in the government for a decade, holding the positions of Minister for Trade, and Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy. I have also served on the board of several initiatives. In our work, our effort was to stay objective and advocate for reforms across the board, not just economic – also for promoting good governance, sustainable development, and social change. This experience gave me an appreciation of advocacy and partnership as a collaborative effort to bring about policy change. I look forward to using this experience to build strong linkages with all partners, especially civil society, in my current role.
You joined the Bank at a critical moment. Can you tell us a bit about joining the Bank during COVID-19?
It has certainly been an experience! I was just easing into a new job and a new city when we started working from home and adjusting to virtual engagements. But while it’s been an accelerated learning curve for me, I also think it’s allowed me to see the Bank at its best. Different parts of the World Bank Group quickly pulled together and worked hard collaboratively and cooperatively to come up with the fast track facility. It was challenging to step right into the middle of this global crisis, but the hands-on experience and collaboration across countries and institutions has been inspiring. This experience forced me to learn very quickly about the Bank’s process of providing support to developing countries, including the poorest and most vulnerable. It is humbling to realize our prompt response will immediately help protect lives and economies while also helping them build a better future.
How do you see both elements of your role, the knowledge agenda and partnerships, working together?
On the one hand, my job relates to how collective knowledge and expertise can contribute to policy design that addresses key development challenges and the global agenda so as to ensure that developing countries’ interests are represented. My research background gave me an appreciation for the importance of well-researched policy. Then, from my 10 years in government, I learned about how we move from well-researched policy to implementation, and the importance of using evidence to make informed decisions and understand the trade-offs of different policy options. To be effective, I believe the Bank needs to envision big ideas in terms of data and research, that will not only be helpful to substantiate the work we carry out, but also to stimulate discussion with our partners. To have an impact on poverty and on people, we need to have accurate information and insights from the field, which of course brings me to the other element of my job: forging partnerships with stakeholders. In a way, I see these two things – informed policy, and fostering greater collaboration and partnerships – as two important pieces of the same puzzle. that bring added value to our overall work to deliver positive country impacts and outcomes. Our partnerships will also be invaluable to shape and feed into the knowledge agenda, for the knowledge base can only be strengthened through diverse voices, facts, and opinions. Right now, the current crisis makes clear just how important it is to have these two elements. We will need more cooperation, and more evidence-based policymaking, if we are to succeed.