Rizal Ramli (RR) and his parents are from Padang. He was forced to move to his grandmother's house, Ny. Rahmah, in Bogor, West Java when he was six, due to the death of his parents.
Ramli's father was an assistant district officer. While Mrs. RR was a known teacher in the discipline instilled with high morals and intellect. "My mother, Rabiah, died first when I was five years old. The next year my father, Ramli, followed" said RR started the story bringing him to Java.
At the age of 3, Rizal Ramli was already able to read. And for that, he says, is thankful to his mother who taught and guided at all times to learn the letters. "My mother is a teacher, so she taught me for a quick easy read. And for me, to be good in reading is the key to get better."
After graduating from high school, Ramli continued his study at Institute of Technology, Bandung (ITB), where he obtained an undergraduate degree in Physics. He worked as a translator to pay his school fee in ITB.
He was an activist and the Chairman of ITB Students Council in 1977. Ramli and 3 of his friends were the authors of the "White Book". In the book, he wrote about many criticism against the system of authoritarian rule in Indonesian government under the Soeharto regime. The white book also explores the practice of corruption, collusion and nepotism in Indonesian Government, particularly the family of President Suharto. Although the white book was eventually banned in the campus, copies were circulated around Java. The popularity also received media attention at that time. The book was then translated into 8 languages by Ben Anderson, a scholar from Cornell University, USA. One of the first critics to Soeharto in Indonesia at that time, Ramli was jailed for 6 months.
Ramli graduated from Boston University with a Ph.D. degree in economics in 1990.
After his return from the United States, he founded ECONIT Advisory Group, an independent economic think-tank, with some of his colleagues. Ramli and his team have been very critical on the government policies, particularly those with little emphasis on public and national interests, such as: national car policy, urea-tablet fertilizer, Freeport mining, etc.
Ramli's career in government started when he was appointed as the Chairman of Bulog (Indonesia's large rice procurement agency) in Gus Dur's Administration in March 2000. He was the chairman of Bulog for less than a year but he was regarded by some as making notable breakthroughs during the period. He introduced steps to improve Bulog's performance. He made efforts to reform Bulog into a more transparent and accountable institution such as transforming off-budget accounts of Bulog to on-budget ones. During Dr Ramli's period with Bulog there were reports of significant cost savings and efficiencies in the operation of the agency. As result, Bulog had a surplus on its account. Dr Ramli simplified and consolidated Bulog's accounts from 117 to only 9 accounts.
On August 12, 2015, Ramli was appointed by President Joko Widodo as the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, replacing Indroyono Soesilo. On July 27, 2016, Jokowi decision to sack Ramli as the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs.
Nowadays, Ramli has continued to play an active role in public policy discussion in Indonesia. He is an active critic of the government, often providing media comment and arguing that further reform is needed in various areas in Indonesia.