J-PAL Southeast Asia @10
Remarks from friends
A collection of remarks and testimonials from partners, J-PAL affiliated professors, staff members, and alumni from the past ten years.
J-PAL Southeast Asia @10: Testimonial from Nurina Merdikawati
J-PAL Southeast Asia @10: Testimonial from Haris Zamaludin
"Currently, the world is facing a multifaceted crisis. At this time, the Government must prioritize the protection of vulnerable groups by allocating more resources to healthcare and education, addressing gender gaps, and ensuring a fair and affordable energy transition in order to achieve net zero emissions.
J-PAL in Southeast Asia (SEA) has made significant contributions to the Government of Indonesia by providing evidence-based policy recommendations. During my time as the Minister of Finance, one of the greatest challenges was to create a strategy to target the delivery of social protection programs to low-income households. Fortunately, J-PAL’s expertise in this area allowed them to offer useful policy recommendations on ways to effectively target beneficiaries. Moreover, the Government of Indonesia recently adopted a tax reform policy based on a J-PAL evaluation, which aims to improve the effectiveness of the taxation system. In short, J-PAL SEA has provided practical and evidence-based policy recommendations across a range of domains, including social protection, voucher, migration, and digital economy related to micro, small, and medium enterprises.
As a former policymaker and an academic, I believe that evidence-based policymaking that considers the context of each country is important. Moving forward, I hope that there will be increased collaboration between government institutions and J-PAL SEA, which can lead to the improvement of research quality."
—Chatib Basri, Former Minister of Finance of Indonesia, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University
"The Government of Australia is proud to have contributed to a meaningful partnership with J-PAL Southeast Asia (SEA) in facilitating collaboration between researchers and governments for strengthening the link between research and policymaking. Through more than a decade of Australian Government core funding support, J-PAL SEA has successfully helped cultivate a broad range of research collaborations and partnerships between Indonesian government agencies, with both local and international researchers. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is proud that our support to J-PAL SEA has enabled J-PAL SEA to produce numerous impact evaluations which informed Indonesia’s policies, including some of the Government of Indonesia’s most ambitious and far-reaching social policies and programs. Notably, through our partnership with J-PAL SEA, we have observed how policymakers and academia increase their collaboration on the creation of policies that tackle Indonesia’s most urgent problems, including during the global pandemic. Various case studies from J-PAL SEA signify the growing awareness among policymakers of the importance of using data and evidence in policymaking. We are also pleased that J-PAL SEA has adopted a twin-track approach to gender equality and social inclusion in its evaluations, enabling researchers to generate evidence to support the formulation of inclusion and development policies.
We look forward to continuing our partnership and collaboration with J-PAL in the foreseeable future."
— Ria Arief, Head of Unit - Knowledge to Policy, Development Cooperation, DFAT
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a big supporter of high-quality research and we are committed to being a data-driven organization. One of the ways we do this is by partnering with research organizations to inform our philanthropic funding decisions, project design, and direction.
The foundation has seen a lot of impact from one of our partners, J-PAL SEA, through their research and short-term policy analysis work. J-PAL’s research has not only guided our philanthropic decisions but has also influenced policymakers. A notable example is the collaboration between Rema Hanna (Scientific Director, J-PAL SEA) and the Government of Indonesia, which informed the size and duration of the fiscal stimulus that was implemented in response to Covid-19. Additionally, J-PAL affiliated researchers also conducted research on the transition of Rastra to BPNT (previously known as RASKIN and now known as Program Sembako), which informed the policy decisions of the Government of Indonesia. The academic research conducted by J-PAL is rigorous and holds tremendous credibility among policymakers. J-PAL is also able to create a collaborative platform, facilitating connections and idea exchange between development actors, researchers, policymakers, and funders. This collaboration helps understand each stakeholder’s priorities and identify the knowledge gaps to address global challenges.
Overall, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recognizes the importance of research in making informed decisions, and we recognize that numerous issues still require further evidence. For example, the foundation is particularly interested in exploring and better understanding the issue of consumer protection and the link between financial services and women’s economic empowerment. Additionally, the foundation also seeks to understand the impact of microcredit on borrowers’ resilience, educational and health outcomes, as well as the availability, cost, and value of credit."
— Brooke Patterson, Program Officer, Financial Services for the Poor at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Arief Wibisono Lubis
"Our vision at the Faculty of Economics and Business Universitas Indonesia (FEB UI) is to be a leading center for economics and business studies in Indonesia that contributes to national development and is internationally acknowledged. We believe that our partnership with J-PAL SEA supports us in realizing this vision. Apart from that, this partnership also enables our university researchers to engage with other researchers of the highest caliber in the field. Notably, not only do our joint publications with J-PAL SEA produce important policy implications for Indonesia, but they are also widely disseminated through reputable academic journals, garnering a higher number of citations as a result.
At J-PAL SEA, I am conducting a pilot study with Arya Gaduh (J-PAL Affiliate, University of Arkansas), on the digital financial literacy of women micro-entrepreneurs. This process has provided me with insights into the steps involved in designing a full randomized evaluation, and looking ahead, I am also interested in further exploring the behavioral factors that may hinder individuals from adopting digital finance.
In light of the multitude of issues that need to be addressed with scarce resources, I firmly advocate for evidence-based policymaking to ensure that resources are allocated efficiently. In the next decade, I hope that J-PAL SEA can further contribute to evidence-based policy in Indonesia and also continue to expand and strengthen its collaboration with other academic institutions in Indonesia."
—Arief Wibisono Lubis PhD, Vice Dean of Education, Research, and Student Affairs, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia
"In light of the recent pandemic, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) has recognized the need to have a social protection program scheme that is more adaptive to risks and threats during uncertain times. Additionally, Bappenas aims to develop a Social Economic Registration (Registrasi Sosial Ekonomi/Regsosek) system that enables the government to identify an individual’s level of vulnerability. This system will serve as a valuable tool for the government to target and deliver social protection programs more efficiently.
In the process of policy formulation, research plays an important role in informing the government’s decision-making. Policymakers want to understand global best practices and explore other available and effective policy instruments. To achieve this, the government can collaborate with research organizations to gather evidence and data that are necessary for making informed policy decisions.
Presently, Indonesia faces development challenges that are different from those of the last decade. Consequently, research organizations like J-PAL SEA must focus on topics relevant to today. For example, one area of interest could be understanding how individuals can maintain resilience and adaptability in rapidly changing situations in Indonesia. Furthermore, given the growing concern about climate change, it is important to have more evidence in this area to help us better understand the issue."
—Vivi Yulaswati, Deputy for Maritime Affairs and Natural Resources and Former Expert Staff for Social Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Bappenas
"Congratulations on J-PAL SEA's 10th anniversary. Partnering with J-PAL SEA has been a boon for policy researchers like myself, who want to understand and improve the designs of policies related to health, education, and transportation in Indonesia. J-PAL SEA is an amazing partner and I am constantly amazed by the professionalism and unwavering dedication of the J-PAL SEA team, from the production to the dissemination of scientifically rigorous and policy-relevant research. In just a decade, J-PAL SEA has rapidly become a key player in promoting an evidence-based policy to improve the well-being of the poor in Indonesia and the region. I look forward to J-PALSEA's continued growth and impact in the years—and decades— ahead."
—Arya Gaduh, Associate Professor of Economics and the Director of the Masters of Science, Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas
Kahfi B Sya
"When I was in college, there was a course that discussed research in the field of development economics that ignited my interest in development economics. After doing further research, I decided to apply for an internship here at J-PAL SEA to learn more about the process of doing research from A to Z. My three-month internship was so interesting that I applied for a full-time position.
Working at J-PAL SEA has been an extraordinary experience for me. Aside from the academic environment, we talk a lot about hobbies and other activities. Every week we have tons of things to do, from sports, karaoke sessions, going out for food, and much more.
I’ve been working on the same project since day one—Kartu Prakerja, which aims to evaluate the impact of Kartu Prakerja on labor, consumption patterns, and financial behaviors. I have gained a lot of skills and expertise from this project and it exposes me to prominent researchers in this field. This exposure, aside from the skill sets and the experience, will support me in fulfilling my future plans, especially when it comes to my education."
—Kahfi B Sya, Research Associate, J-PAL SEA
Bertha Fania Maula
"As someone who experienced working in the government, I learned how well-intended policies could end up with bad outcomes. What I love about J-PAL is its bottom-up approach to directly collecting information from the field, analyzing evidence, and using the findings to inform policies. While this is not always superior to the top-down approach, I find purpose in what I have been doing at J-PAL SEA, like when I worked on the impact evaluation of the Covid-19 electricity stimulus program in Indonesia.
Undoubtedly, J-PAL SEA has more to offer than just a job. Being exposed to high-quality projects led by top-notch researchers has greatly developed my skills and encouraged me to pursue further study and a research career path in the development field.
All in all, I am glad that I crossed paths with J-PAL SEA along my career journey. Happy birthday, J-PAL SEA!!"
—Bertha Fania Maula, Senior Research Associate, J-PAL SEA
"Whoa, happy to be part of J-PAL SEA’s 10-year journey! At first, I was interested in working with J-PAL SEA simply because I thought that the posted vacancy fit my background. But as I learned more about the work, I realized it was worth a try to be exposed to work that has the opposite purpose of private interest and has much more of a social interest. Working with the Finance & Operations team is aligned with my personal interest in learning how we set up the office policy, create an ideal working environment, and know the process of handling decision-making. What I love most about working here is the working environment, especially the colleagues. They are hard-working, easy-going, and always manage to share new knowledge every time!"
—Taliya Imaniya, Senior Operations Associate, J-PAL SEA
"I was recruited as a senior research associate at J-PAL SEA right after completing my master’s degree at LSE in 2014. At the time, I worked primarily on an RCT project that tries to expand the National Health Insurance (Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional) coverage, alongside other projects like conducting training to promote RCTs. Other than being starstruck by working together with some of the biggest names in development economics like Ben Olken (Scientific Director, J-PAL SEA) or Rema Hanna (Scientific Director, J-PAL SEA), and seeing your name mentioned (albeit in the small asterisk in the thank you note) in the journal publication many years later, working at J-PAL was a real-life education on the framework for how a program should be ideally (and often creatively) designed, implemented and evaluated. This has proved to be essential in the many roles I did after my time at J-PAL, such as in the government, and now in running a non-profit organization (INSPIRASI Foundation)."
—Patrya Pratama, Founding CEO and Executive Director, INSPIRASI Foundation
"I was a senior research associate when I left J-PAL SEA for graduate school in June 2021, but I started out as an intern in the summer before my senior year of undergraduate studies. That summer was incredibly impactful for me and my future, and I knew that I wanted to come back as a full-time staff member at J-PAL SEA and learn more about research. During my time at J-PAL SEA, I helped design and implement randomized evaluations that are related to political economy and governance. This meant that I was constantly engaged with government partners, asking them about the most important problems they faced and listening to what they needed in order to better deliver public goods. This experience motivates me to look for research ideas and opportunities that can address real problems in our society."
—Aqila Putri, PhD student, University of Maryland
Mohammad Irwan Setyawan
"As a senior research associate at J-PAL SEA, one of the most rewarding aspects of my role was the opportunity to engage with a diverse range of individuals, each bringing their unique perspectives. Whether collaborating with colleagues, partnering with principal investigators, or interacting with respondents, I relished the chance to connect with people from various backgrounds and viewpoints. These encounters enriched my work environment, fostering an environment of learning and growth. The interactions not only enhanced my ability to comprehend complex issues from different angles but also nurtured a sense of empathy and understanding. I genuinely appreciated the inclusive and collaborative atmosphere at J-PAL SEA, which allowed me to appreciate the value of diverse perspectives in achieving impactful outcomes.
During my tenure at J-PAL SEA, I gained invaluable insights into the significance of employing data and evidence as guiding principles for decision-making. This experience taught me the pivotal role that thorough analysis plays in ensuring informed choices. By consistently prioritizing data-driven approaches, J-PAL SEA fostered a culture of accountability, accuracy, and efficiency. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have worked in an environment that emphasized the power of evidence-based decision-making, as it has equipped me with a robust skill set that I will carry forward in my professional journey."
—Mohammad Irwan Setyawan, Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, VIDA Digital Identity