Jake Thomases is a public policy analyst at the Risk Analysis Research Center.
Investors in Indonesia let out a small sigh of relief when Heri Sudarmanto, the director of foreign workers, announced on October 19 that foreign workers would not be required to pass Indonesian language tests after all. Just three days earlier, an official with the manpower ministry told reporters that such a test would be implemented. The language requirement, which has been proposed and rescinded more than once, is just the latest attempt to shield sectors of the Indonesian economy from outside competition. Such measures are puzzling and counterproductive given President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s pleas for infrastructure investment dollars during every state visit he makes. Against the backdrop of economic protectionism, such pleas come across as: “Bring us the money and we’ll tell you how to spend it.”