Conference: Political and Economic Trends in the Riau Islands



To Singapore’s immediate south, the Indonesian Province of the Riau Islands (PRI) has a population of 1.7 million and a land area of 8,200 sq kilometres scattered across some 2,400 islands. The better-known islands include: Batam, the province’s economic motor; Bintan, the site of provincial capital, Tanjungpinang, and the area’s cultural heartland; and Karimun, strategically located near the Straits of Malacca.

Historically, the Riau Islands – and particularly Batam – have been a key part of Indonesia’s strategy to develop its manufacturing sector. Specialized infrastructure and liberalized regulations helped attract substantial foreign investment in the 1990s. In addition to generating a large number of formal sector jobs and earning foreign exchange for the country, this paved the way for a number of far-reaching political and social developments.

Incomes rose rapidly, making the Riau Islands one of the country’s richest regions. Consequently, the Islands have experienced large-scale migration from other parts of the country, dramatically increasing its population, changing its demographic and political complexion, and challenging urban infrastructure and the environment.

These changes have also had political ramifications. Due to its greater wealth, global connections, and archipelagic identity, local leaders lobbied for the creation of a new province for the Riau Islands. The Islands’ changing ethnic composition has led to more vocal identity politics and its large formal sector workforce has become an important site for industrial relations activities.

And, long oriented towards foreign direct investment and production for export, the Province of the Riau Islands has been hit by downturns in its two largest employment generators – the electrical and electronics and the shipyard sectors. Recent trends in investment into Indonesia indicate that firms are seeking to tap the country’s burgeoning domestic market, rather than produce for export. Yet, in this context, the Riau Islands offer little of benefit, due to the province’s low population base, poor connectivity, and distance from major urban centres.

Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, this conference will explore current political and economic developments in the Riau Islands. This will be done around the following three themes:

Rapid Economic Change: what have been the social, political, and environmental effects of the rapid economic change seen in the Riau Islands?

Decentralization: how have the decentralization reforms affected the Riau Islands, including enabling the provincial secession movement to succeed, as well as potentially threatening its viability through attempts to create additional political units?

Development Model: to what extent can or should the Province seek to re-orient its export production model to cater to increasing flows of investment seeking to tap Indonesia’s domestic market?

Programme: The Symposium’s programme can be found here.

Attendance to the Conference is free of charge but registration is required by 18 April 2017.

Registration: To register, please complete this form and return it by fax:  6775-6264 or email it to by 17 April  2017.

As seats are limited, please register early.  Admission to the Conference can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS.

For any queries, please feel free to e-mail

Best wishes

Dr Francis Hutchinson and Dr Siwage Dharma Negara


Conference: Services Liberalization in ASEAN: Foreign Direct Investment in Logistics Sector



About the Conference

The services sector has gained growing attention in recent years. It has accounted for an increasing share in the Gross Domestic Product of a number of economies while its global trade growth has surpassed the growth in merchandise trade. Further, the ten Southeast Asian countries aspire to deepen their services sector integration for building a stronger ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2025. However, services liberalization has progressed much more slowly than goods liberalization. Diverse regulations across countries have been identified as one of the key barriers to liberalization efforts. Within the services sector, efficient logistics is a pre-requisite for a smooth movement of goods within and across countries. It is also an important component for enhanced connectivity in ASEAN. But, the goal of integrating logistics in ASEAN has yet to be achieved. Despite the initiatives made to liberalize and integrate this sector, there are still many challenges ahead for improving logistics integration in order to reduce trade costs in ASEAN.
This Conference brings together prominent economists and logistics experts to assess the extent to which ASEAN’s services liberalization policies are able to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the logistics sector. It further examines the challenges encountered in each of the 10 ASEAN member countries in this issue, with the aim of finding solutions for meeting the goals of logistics integration.

Attendance to the Conference is free of charge but registration is required by 11 November 2016.  As seats are limited, please register early.  Admission to the Conference can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS.

Please click here to see the conference programme.

To register, please complete the attached registration form and e-mail to


Conference: Beyond the National: The Regional and Transnational Trajectories of Chinese Indonesians


About the Conference

The fall of the New Order regime in 1998 and the abolition of assimilation policies in the post-Suharto ushered in a “revival” of Chinese culture and identity politics in Indonesia. In particular, the post-Suharto years, with the rise of regional autonomy and identities, have also seen a more pronounced regional identity politics among ethnic Chinese keen to express their diverse regional origins. Externally, the rapid rise of China in the last fifteen years has become a significant factor that influenced Chinese Indonesian identity politics. For many Chinese Indonesians, the rise of China incited a feeling of pride towards one’s Chineseness, particularly after decades of forced assimilation. Furthermore, the burgeoning bilateral relationship between the PRC and Indonesia has seen Chinese Indonesian organisations and individuals playing a greater role in dealings between the two countries.

In the context of these new developments, new questions need to be asked with regards to the position and perceptions of contemporary post-Suharto Chinese Indonesians. For instance, how are Chinese Indonesians from different parts of Indonesia shaped by their regional contexts, and how does this affect their roles in local politics and economies? What roles do Chinese Indonesians play in contemporary Sino-Indonesian relations? How do Chinese Indonesians perceive Chinese identity and belonging at the time of China’s rise? At the other end of the spectrum, it also needs to be asked: how do non-Chinese Indonesians perceive the greater visibility of Chineseness in post-Suharto Indonesia? Furthermore, in an era of heightened connectivity, what sort of trans-national/trans-border/trans-local connections do Chinese Indonesians forge and maintain?

Today, the time is right for scholars to reassess the Chinese Indonesian situation and to potentially move beyond the conventional framework of the nation-state. This conference is intended to be a scholarly “update” on the contemporary history and ethnography of Chinese Indonesians. It is also intended to be a forum where both established and emerging scholars can introduce new directions and trends in Chinese Indonesian studies, particularly those with a transnational approach.

Keynote speaker:  Dr Mary Somers Heidhues

Conference programme: Click here for the programme

Registration: Attendance to the conference is free of charge but registration is required by 14 October 2016.  As seats are limited, please register early using this registration form. Admission to the conference can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS. For any queries, please feel free to e-mail: <>.


Conference: The Malaysian Economy towards 2020: Issues and Challenges




Malaysia’s ambition to become a developed nation by the year 2020 was first articulated in 1991.  The “Vision 2020” goal has explicitly and implicitly influenced medium and long-term development planning in Malaysia for the past 25 years.  As the year 2020 approaches, the Malaysian economy has grown at a pace below the annual growth target of six percent set in the Tenth Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).  This has been partly due to the adverse global economic conditions in recent years.  Thus, the goal of achieving robust economic sufficient to achieve developed nation status will remain a significant challenge for Malaysian policymakers.


Please click here.

This conference brings together prominent economists working on various aspects of the Malaysian economy with the goal of examining and assessing the extent to which the  government’s current economic policies are able to address the challenges of achieving a developed country status by the year 2020.

Attendance to the conference is free of charge but registration is required by 18 March 2016. To register, please fill up this form as linked. As seats are limited, please register early.  Admission to the conference can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS. For any queries, please feel free to e-mail <>.