LPDP : A Coincidence and A Hope for This Country

Excellent.

That is one word that can describe LPDP.

This post will elaborate three things: A Series of Fortunate Events and LPDP (How I met LPDP), Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (about this institution), and Social Enterpreneurship (one of the materials that was delivered yesterday). I will explain them in a descriptive-argumentative way, as that is naturally my style in writing. I hope we can all learn from this, and that everyone can take advantage of this institution! ^_^

 

A Series of Fortunate Events and LPDP

Thinking back to how I came across it, I simply cannot believe that miracles do not exist. While one might say it was an accident, I do not believe in such. One cannot trip over a stone without having a stone existing there in the first place. To think that all that existed and occured are simply fractions of the very long chain of causality starting from the big bang as moment of creation, I simply cannot say that all of this was not planned.

PS: the chaos theory can go to hell

I never thought that I would become a lawyer. There were times where I thought I would be a good one, but then that was because I watched the Boston Legal Series. If you think that people who are good in arguing will be good lawyers, then you are in the wrong country. 90% of our court proceedings are procedural thingamajigs, and most communications are done in writing. Boring, disgusting, whatever, name it. Being a teacher for so many years, I always wanted to be a lecturer. Most of my kids have associated the name “Fajri” with “Lecturer” or “Teacher”.

But one day, BOOM! I got into a law firm. While waiting for my graduation ceremony, I wanted to try legal practice, just to kill time. As a student highly achieving in international moot courts, english debating, and model united nations, I confidently applied to the top law firms in this country: Hadinoto Hadiputranto and Partners (HHP), Ali Budiharjo dan Reksodiputro Law Firm (ABNR), and Hutabarat Halim and Partners (HHR). However, HHP and ABNR did not contact me for quite a while after I submitted my application. Further, when the secretary of HHR invited me for an ‘interview’, it turns out to be a written test of investment law and corporate law –all of which are subjects I never even took during law school. Yes, I screwed up.

I then took an interview at a law firm with high profile lawyers with some high profile clients, but was a smaller one: Panji Prasetyo and Partners Law Office (PPnP). I got the job right away. Interestingly, I applied for an internship, but got a full-time job as paralegal instead. Allah SWT has an interesting sense of humor: two weeks in, HHP, ABNR, and HHR called me, but I was already bound by contract with PPnP.

It seemed very obvious to my colleagues that being a lawyer was not my thing. My strength in the field of law is my understanding on legal theory, but I was extremely in facing technicalities and bureaucracies –which the latters were my jobs there. While my focus of study and indepth understanding was in the doctrine of jus cogens (it is in the field of theory and philosophy of international law[1]), I had to deal with documents and letters and bankruptcy law and divorces and all those stuff. It was a very interesting and friendly law firm, though, but the highlight just so happened to be very unpredictable.

Many series of coincidences happened there. Among them would be a spiritual journey, where I came to a much better understanding and acceptance of islam. This would be another story. The story that I wish to highlight is my english course.

Not to sound like a snob or anything, my english is great. However, PPnP made me go through a compulsory english course with English First. There was a senior lawyer that was supposed to take the course instead of me, but he resigned while the office has already paid, so I took his place. This is just one of the interesting coincidences that happened in my life there.

When I took the speaking test for EF to set my english level, I met the future tutor: Robert Morgan. When he first heard me speak, he asked whether I had lived abroad before, to which I told him that I grew up in Manchester. “Thats where I came from” said Rob. Another coincidence?

In the following months, classes with him were really interesting. However, the most interesting thing was when Rob told me that he had another student in the Ministry of Finance that he would really like me to meet. I have shared to Rob that I really want to return to England to continue my studies, and this student of his was the President Director of a new institution under the Ministry of Finance that will give out scholarships.

The student’s name was Eko Prasetyo, and the new institution’s name was LPDP.

 

Lembaga Pengelolaan Dana Pendidikan (LPDP)

Around September 2012, I got to meet Pak Eko, where he gave me a general description of what kind of scholarship will LPDP provide: we send you to study abroad, then get back here and contribute to your country as leaders. Deep inside, my head told me: “with or without LPDP, with Allah’s permission, thats what I will try to do anyways”.

Alhamdulillah, everything else went well along the way (although not without obstacles). December 21st, 2012, I quit my job at PPnP to pursuit my dreams to become a lecturer at the International Program of the Faculty of Law, UGM, teaching international law. May 7th, 2013, I passed the administrative selection of LPDP, and on June 17th, 2013, my name was on the list of those who passed the interview selection.

Alhamdulillah. Here I am typing this in Graha Insan Cita, Depok, in the Leadership Training Program which all candidate scholarship recepients must go through. After such a long intro, I havent explained what LPDP is, right? Thats because in the chronology of events, it was not until today that I have a deeper understanding of what LPDP actually is. Just this afternoon, we had whole session to understand the institution of LPDP itself. So, here we go.

Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (LPDP)[2] is an institution established under the coordination of three ministries (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Religion, and headed  by the Ministry of Finance). LPDP has a stack load of money (as of now, IDR 15 trillions-ish), which is used as a trust fund. The money will be invested, and the profits will be used for four things: scholarships, research grants, education institution rehab, and to add the trust fund.

On scholarships

This is perhaps the most interesting part for many of us, especially those who are interested in continuing our studies. There are a number of options that we could choose from:

  1. Masters Scholarship to foreign universities
  2. Masters Scholarship to domestic universities
  3. Doctorate Scholarship to foreign universities
  4. Doctorate Scholarship to domestic universities
  5. Master’s Thesis research grant to foreign universities
  6. Master’s Thesis research grant to domestic universities
  7. Doctorate Dissertation research grant to foreign universities
  8. Doctorate Dissertation research grant to domestic universities

For point a-d, the scholarship will cover everything from tuition fee, living costs, international travel, etc. As for point e-h, candidates will make a proposal, and the amount granted will depend on that.

There are no limitations for what subjects we could propose. I have seen candidates studying mathematics, industrial engineering, management, accounting, theology, chemistry, etc, and I am personally studying law. A very wide variety. All LPDP asks from us is to contribute to the society, be leaders in our respective fields—whatever that field may be.

On Research Grants

LPDP also gives research grants and incentives to various fields, which may include but not limited to: food sustainability, agriculture, science and engineering, social and culture, and many others. To make sure this research will benefit Indonesia, the research team must be fully comprised of Indonesian nationals, and must be conducted within the territorial jurisdiction of Indonesia also.

This is very important, as research is something that is highly essential to the development of quality of production and social life of a country, however the Indonesian government (as of now) alocates a very small amount to researches. This program is expected to incentify more researches to be done for our country to develop more.

On Education Institution Rehab

There are many schools and other educational infrastructures that are suffering damage caused by natural disasters. While these infrastructures are essential to facilitate the basic education of our society, such a damage will highly reduce the effectiveness of the education processes. The government already has programs and funds to respond to that in the ministry of education. However, LPDP is set to be a final resort to help repair these infrastructure.

The reason for this is the unique financial structure of LPDP, which its activities do not rely on APBN, but the trust fund. Therefore, it does not rely on the yearly financial book (or whatever you call it, hahaha), which reduces a significant amount of administrative ‘hindrances’. Among them, would be the ‘three months fasting’ phenomenon. Usually, the financial year ends on December, but state funds are not delivered from the national budget until the end of March or April. Imagine that. But LPDP will face no such problem!

 

Now. Such an interesting institution, with such a grand aim, with all the facilities to actually achieve that –close to utopic—aim. Indonesia is currently in the top 20 of the worlds economics, and in 2030 we are projected to enter the top 10. This projection will remain as a dream of a utopia unless every single able-bodied and able-brained man of Indonesia fights for it.

I do not want to sound like an idealist-nonrealistic poop. But it pains me to see that there are so many people who live by the principle of ‘every man for himself’. It is not uncommon for people to be pragmatic and only seek what benefits him/herself. Personally, it is not entirely wrong to want the best for oneself. However, I find it completely wrong for someone to attempt so while sacrificing the life of others –both intentionally or ignorantly.

It is totally hypocritical for one to blame the government for every misfortunes but themselves also unwilling to contribute or even being part of the problem. Claiming to not wish to contribute because the government aint doing its job is either playing egg-and-chicken-which-one-first which is redundant and rhetorical, or simply finding excuses for their own evil.

Rasulullah (Upon Whom Be Peace) once mentioned that if on a boat with people in the lower and upper deck, and those in the upper deck do not want to be bothered by the people in the lower deck asking for water, then the latter will obtain water by poking holes through the bottom of the ship, and in such a situation everyone –both in the upper and lower deck—will drown.[3] I am sure that many of you can relate to this story.

However, not everyone is motivated to care. As the Quran mentions, one cannot convince another to be guided (to faith), but it is Allah SWT that decides whom to guide,[4] and Rasulullah (Upon Whom Be Peace) said that one does not have faith (imaan) when his neighbors are not safe from his/her mischief.[5]

LPDP is for those who are motivated to care enough to make a change. You do not need to work for the ministry of finance, or the government in general. You do not need to be a lecturer like myself if that is not your heart’s calling. If you are a doctor, be one that works for the society. If you are a business owner, be one that works for the society. If you are an engineer, be one that works for the society.

I hate free trade and economic globalization, as I think it is a large form of injustice by the rich capitalist minority towards the poor majority. However, it is upon us already. The WTO demands us to open our economic borders so much that our domestic producers will face large capital holders in a full body contact.[6] There are exceptions for developing countries,[7] but they are all temporary and the full might of free trade will befall upon us all.

When that day comes, our country will be in desperate need of highly educated people who are not just ready to fight in that day, but also care for those who cannot fight. Even if you do not care for our country, at least care for the people. OUR people. This is the LPDP spirit.

 

Social Enterpreneurship

Other than materials on the structure of LPDP, we had another material on Social Enterpreneurship by Gorin Mustaqim. A very interesting guy, he is (not romantically. I am single, but I am still straight. Plus, he is married, hahaha). This dude is not an LPDP alumni, as we do not have any alumni yet. However, he clearly has the spirit of one.

He is the founder of ASGAR MUDA (ASGAR=Asli Garut), which is a body of social enterpreneurship. The whole idea of social enterpreneurship is to not only gain profit for one self, but to do so by building the capacity of the society. This is different with charity programs, which seeks no profit at all, or responsible corporates that do CSR as a side-along job (or merely image building to justify them to destroy us further).

ASGAR MUDA helps the society with many programs, which includes building some micro-finance bodies to help the community in small areas develop their own businesses, or conducting projects and giving out capitals to farmers. Among them, they give capital for farmers to plant a thing-tree (I forgot what exactly was the plant called haha), which will cost IDR 15 million in capital but in 5 years could gain IDR 750 million. Not only this is a heck load of money, one that not many farmers would usually ever witness in their entire life spent thrice but many will now enjoy it, but it helps change the stigma of the society to not only think of short term benefits and start thinking about long term investments.

What is most important, is that this is not charity. The people of ASGAR MUDA also gain profit, in that thing-tree thing they get 30-40% (and the farmers get 60-70%). By this, inshaaAllah it is more sustainable to be beneficial for both parties: for the Social Enterpreneurs, they continuously gain profits as well to sustain their living or even more than that (in charity, you dont exactly earn, which sort of beats the point), and for the community, they can stand on their own feet and not rely on continuous charities.

I find it most intriguing when a fellow participant asked “get profit while caring”, or “caring while getting profit” (which is then a question of priority). Kang Goris answered that one cannot separate them both. Social enterpreneurship is all about obtaining a balance between the two.

Your average capitalist practice defines “social contribution” as “giving low-skill jobs with minimum wage or lower” and “yay we care for your people!” but in practice treats humans as machines that eats something other than fuel and electricity and poops a different kind of material, at the lowest standard possible.[8] These companies indoctrinate the workers with a premise that “despite the low wages and poor work conditions, its better to work with us rather than not having a job at all” or at a larger scale “despite the low wages and poor work conditions, your country needs our investments, right?”.

On the other hand, social enterpreneurship tries their best to get the people on their own feet and be able to manage their own business under their own control. And the social enterpreneurs will get their profit as well, and they are also rich.

Certainly, they are not as rich as the capitalists. But then, why, really, do you even need to be that rich? The world is enough for every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.[9] We should not be under the delusion of a basic premise that “there is a limited amount of resource, but human need is unlimited”.[10] Such a premise is untested, unresearched, but becomes ground for excessive competition and greed by the capitalists. If such a premise is true, then how come 90% of the world’s resource is owned by a mere 10% of the world’s population? If 10% of the world’s resource could feed 90% of the world (many in poor standards, some in average standards), imagine how much more welfare could be distributed to others if that 10% richest people share more![11]

Unlike that disgusting assumption above, islam teaches us that Allah gives us an abundance.[12] Rasulullah (Upon Whom Be Peace) himself never holds his wealth for more than a day, and gives it all out for charity. The khulafaur rasyidin, I give an example of Umar Bin Khattab, did not want to be given salary for his duties as Khalifah (but then he was ‘forced’ to receive salary, which he responded by “fine! But I will give up my productive plantations for waqaf [or state asset]”) but we do not need to go that far to actually contribute wholeheartedly to the community.

I plan to start a business, because I do not want to sustain my life with my salary as lecturer. I do not know when this intention could actually come to fruition, but I really do wish that I can love my students and do research without worrying about incentives. However, this general lecture by Kang Gorin is the second best business lesson I have ever heard (the first being the stories of Rasulullah [Upon Whom Be Peace] in his businesses), and I will inshaaAllah apply it well.

I pray that anyone who wishes to start a business will apply this too. Its the spirit that counts, you see, because everyone is moved by their spirit. If one claims to have a spirit but is not moved by it, then it is evident that such a claim may be false.

All we can do is to try our best. Of course we could fail. Kang Gorin and any other enterpreneurship maestro’s will tell you that we will face many ups and downs, even bankruptcy at some points, but we should never stop trying. And especially from Kang Gorin and other islamic enterpreneurs, not only we should stop trying to gain profit but also to do so by contributing to the welfare of the society. At least that even if we still fail at the end of our life, but never giving up will give us the privilege in Yaumil Akhir, where many will testify in our favor, saying this:

“He has tried his best”


[1] For further reference, see M. Cherif Bassiouni. 1998. International Crimes: Jus Cogens and Obligatio Erga Omnes, Law & Contemporary Problems, LCP vol. 59, pp. 63-74

[2] See lpdp.depkeu.go.id or beasiswalpdp.org for further reference

[3] Hadith Shahih Muslim

[4] See Surah Al Qashash v.56

[5] Hadith Shahih Bukhary

[6] See Article 3, 6, and 16, of the GATT 1994

[7] Article 37 of the GATT 1994, The Implementation of Special and Differentia Treatment Provisions in WTO Agreements and Decisions, etc

[8] See what the wig industry is like in Purbalingga. Totally inhumane. Currently, a research is being done by Hizkia Yosie, et al in that area (still ongoing). It is incomplete, but the stories make me shiver. And it pains me to know that this is happening everywhere.

[9] A cute and true quote by Mahatma Gandhi

[10] See Thomas Sowell. 2004. Basic Economics: A Citizen‘s Guide to the Economy (Revised and Expanded Edition). New York:Basic Books, but we have this ridiculous premise in almost all of our economy handbooks in junior high school!

[11] Follow @injusticefacts on twitter, they are full of these statistics and stuffs. See also Jeffery Sachs book “End of Poverty” to see his perspective on how we could actually end poverty.

[12] Surah Al Kauthar, v.1

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