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Andy Mukherjee

Indonesia’s Jokowi Wants Growth. And Something More

The president’s leadership will be defined by the decisions he makes shaping the climate destiny of Southeast Asia.

President Joko Widodo has more than his legacy in his hands.

President Joko Widodo has more than his legacy in his hands.

Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

In upsetting everyone’s best-laid plans, the pandemic has made us aware of the fallibility of our single-minded pursuit of peak efficiency. Among those seeking a more decompressed future, in which there’s a better balance between today’s rewards and tomorrow’s risks, is Joko Widodo. The president of Indonesia has his own compass to navigate the post-Covid-19 world: a two-year stint at a remote pulp mill in his early youth. 

His search for answers, Widodo told me in a Zoom interview Wednesday, is taking him back to Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra. That’s where as a forestry graduate, the future furniture businessman-turned-politician had landed his first job, living with his wife, Iriana, deep in the jungles, a seven-hour ride from the provincial capital, which itself is 2,200 kilometers (1,367 miles) from home on the main island, Java.