Indonesian Vice President Kalla urges diaspora to do its bit for country

ndonesia's Vice President Jusuf Kalla delivers a speech at the 21st International Conference of The Future of Asia at a hotel in Tokyo on May 21, 2015.

While praising the Indonesian diaspora's efforts to open doors of opportunity for countrymen, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has urged Indonesians living abroad to utilize more of their skills, resources and knowledge to build and develop the country.

Members of the Indonesian diaspora living, working and studying across the globe gathered for the third Indonesian Diaspora Conference on Wednesday in Jakarta to discuss ways to contribute their overseas-earned knowledge and skills to national development.

Kalla praised expats' efforts to create opportunities for Indonesians in international markets and in global settings. However, he underlined the need to do more.

"Maintaining good relations with the Indonesian diaspora will definitely benefit us more.

The job now is to build and develop the country together with the skills, resources and knowledge obtained outside Indonesia," Kalla said during his speech at the opening of the two-day congress.

Kalla noted that the Indonesian diaspora was still minuscule compared with the most populous diaspora communities in the world and region, namely those of India, China and the Philippines, keeping the global impact of Indonesians low.

"In terms of population, our diaspora should be the third-largest in the world. But with some countries, diaspora relations and contributions have been emphasised within their history, therefore making their global contributions more apparent," he said.

Seventy-six diaspora chapters from 44 countries across the globe are participating in the congress, which will run until Aug.

13 at the Bidakara Center in South Jakarta. The previous congress, held in 2012, was attended by 50 diaspora chapters from 26 countries.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi emphasised that the event served to expand opportunities and connect members of the diaspora with various professions in order to see what they could offer to the country.

"The fact that more Indonesian diaspora communities are participating in the third congress shows that Indonesians abroad are becoming increasingly active. We will continue to push our representatives and consulates abroad to further strengthen the network with diaspora communities," the minister said.

In order to foster and flourish the diaspora network and co-operation, Retno said the ministry would add support, such as establishing a special unit to handle diaspora relations.

"There will also be an echelon I-level team formed to strengthen the handling of social and cultural issues in order to better improve the welfare of Indonesians working or living abroad," she added.

The ministry is also to go through with its plan to issue diaspora ID cards to help keep track of the number of Indonesians living overseas and map the individual potential of the diaspora.

Indonesian Diaspora Business Council (IDBC) chairman Edward Wanandi indicated that the financial power of the Indonesian diaspora had begun to benefit the nation, with remittances from Indonesians abroad reaching US$8.4 billion (S$11 billion) in 2014.