Indonesia repositions itself as a vibrant brand – news from Saudi Arabia

Hartono, who served as Indonesian consul general in Davao city in southern Philippine island of Mindanao, assumed office in Jeddah recently, succeeding Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin. He performed Umrah in 1997 after completing his first overseas diplomatic mission in Algeria and later came for Haj in 2002. “Immediately after taking over as the new consul general, I paid special attention to the overall condition of hundreds of thousands of our citizens working in the Kingdom for several years. There are some cases of grievances and abuse, including non-payment of wages and exploitation by employers, and we will address this issue on a priority basis,” he said.

“We still have concerns regarding the services extended to our citizens, especially domestic helpers. The moratorium has been there for recruiting domestic help. However, there are no restrictions for professionals, and we want to further collaborate with Saudi authorities for making aware of our citizens about the Kingdom’s rules and regulations,” he said.

As part of the image building, Hartono said, the consulate will boost bilateral business trips to expose the potential of our economy and industries in front of the Saudi business leaders. “During interactions with some Saudi businessmen, I had the feedback that they want to undertake more trips to nations other than Indonesia as it is not on their radar in terms of boosting trade and economic relations. In such a scenario, we want to improve our image and give the impression that we are not as weak as they think.” “Indonesian workers are not only composed of domestic helpers but also hundreds of thousands of talented people, including engineers and doctors. We have excellent infrastructure with a lot of huge commercial malls as well as traditional markets,” he pointed out.

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Hartono noted that improving the image building is also part of promoting the vast potential of tourism. “If our image is poor in terms of security, hygiene, accommodation, hospitality, and the like, how can we attract tourists. We have over 17,000 islands with more than 100 beautiful beaches with pristine waters such as Bali and Longo for diving and snorkeling. Jakarta and Surabaya give tourists excellent experiences as these cities show both the strength and beauty of Indonesian society and culture.”

He said that the consulate wants to showcase Indonesia’s beautiful nature and rich culture with reformed initiatives. “Taking advantage of Saudi Arabia’s more opening up to the entertainment industry, we want to invite our cultural and artistic troupes to perform in the Kingdom and introduce our rich and diverse culture and folklore forms as well as a cuisine in front of the Saudi people.”

Hartono also unveiled plans to boost Indonesia’s export and economic diplomacy to improve the quality of food being served to its Haj pilgrims with a menu of Indonesian flavors. Indonesia sends the most significant number of pilgrims for the annual Haj, with over 230,000 of them expected in the upcoming season. “The plan is to use our products such as rice, spices, and fish by Saudi catering companies, which are serving meals to our pilgrims and thus giving an impetus to our exports too,” he said.

An exhibition, which was held in 2018 in this regard, brought together exporters and distributors of Indonesian food products with prospective Saudi caterers. Hartono said that around 120,000 Indonesian pilgrims are expected to take advantage of Makkah Route Initiative for this year’s Haj. “Apart from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, Juanda International Airport in Surabaya will also be the embarkation point for Makkah Route this year. The initiative will add more comfort and relief to most of the elderly pilgrims, who got the opportunity for their lifetime spiritual journey after more than 25 years of registration, in their 10 to 12-hour long flight to Jeddah and Madinah.

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The consul general announced plans to hold an educational fair in Jeddah as part of attracting Saudis and expatriates to take advantage of the best educational opportunities in Indonesia. “We are exploring institutional links between Saudi and Indonesian universities and conducting training programs in association with Saudi universities. I discussed with our postgraduate students of the Islamic University of Madinah in this regard,” he said.

He said Indonesia’s educational sector is witnessing rapid growth as it provides quality education at affordable rates. “Even many students from Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam are coming to our country for higher education, especially in dentistry, medicine, and engineering rather than going to Europe or the United States,” he said, adding that Malang province alone hosts several premier universities.

Hartono, who belongs to the Central Java region, obtained his higher degrees from the University of Essex in the UK and the National University of Singapore and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1988. He also served at the Indonesian embassy in Santiago, Chile. He has a wife and three children.

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