Sadli, as he was widely known as, was born in Sumedang, West Java. He first studied in the Hollandsch-Inlandsche School (HIS) in Sumedang and Subang, and later moved to the Hogere Burger School (HBS) in Semarang in Central Java. He then (1952) took university studies in the Technical Faculty, Gadjah Mada University, in Yogyakarta.
Between 1954 and 1956, Sadli worked towards his Master of Science in economics at MIT in the United States before proceeding to post-graduate studies in economics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1956. He returned to Indonesia in 1957 where he became Director of the Economics and Management Institute (LPEM) at the University of Indonesia.
Career in government
Sadli worked at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was a key economic adviser in the New Order government. He was one of five prominent economic advisers who became known as the Berkeley Mafia during the Soeharto era working closely with Professor Widjojo Nitisastro. In 1967 he was appointed by Suharto as the first chair of the Indonesian Investment Coordination Board. Between 1971-73 he served as Minister for Manpower and then in 1973-78 he was Minister for Mines in the Second Development Cabinet.
After his retirement as a minister in 1978, Sadli became widely regarded as one of the most senior policy-oriented economists in Indonesia. He remained a key adviser to Soeharto, he fostered his many links in business circles, and he became an active economic journalist. As an economic commentator Sadli made important contributions to public policy discussion in Indonesia throughout the 1980s and 1990s and until the time of his death. Because he was so well known and respected he could chide or praise almost anybody in public life at will, and he often did so with gentle good humour in the numerous columns that he wrote for the Indonesian publication Business News and other Indonesian publications. He was one of the first senior figures in Indonesia to become openly critical of the Soeharto regime. The most consistent theme in his public commentary was the need for good economic policy.
Sadli died quietly at the home where he had lived for many years in the suburb of Kebayoran in South Jakarta on 8 January 2008. He is survived by his wife, Professor Saparinah Sadli, who is a leading figure in Indonesia for her work in the fields of psychology and women's rights.
In recognition of his contribution to the discussion of economic policy-making in Indonesia, an annual Sadli Lecture is held in Jakarta. The Sadli Lecture is sponsored jointly by the Institute of Economic and Social Research from the University of Indonesia and the Indonesia Project at the Australian National University in Canberra.
- Education details are from the biodata page in Mohamad Ikhsan, Chris Manning and Hadi Soesastro (eds), 2002, 80 tahun Mohamad Sadli: Ekonomi Indonesia di era politik baru [Mohamad Sadli at 80 years: the Indonesian economy in the new political era], Penerbit Buku Kompas, Jakarta. ISBN 979-709-036-1.
- For a discussion of Sadli's role during this period and later as a minister see the article by the eminent Indonesian economist and policy-maker, Mari Pangestu (2008), 'A tribute to our guru, mentor, friend and economic commentator par excellence: Professor Mohammad Sadli', Economics and Finance in Indonesia, 56(1), pp 3-22. See also M. Sadli (1993), 'Recollections of my career', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 29(1), pp. 35-51, reprinted as 'Mohammad Sadli' in Thee Kian Wie, ed (2003), Recollections: the Indonesian economy, 1950s-1990s, Canberra and Singapore, Australian National University and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies ISBN 981-230-174-7.
- Hal Hill and Thee Kian Wie (2008), 'Moh. Sadli (1922-2008), economist, minister and public intellectual', Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 44(1), pp. 151-156 
- Some of these columns, for example, were republished in Prof. M. Sadli (2001), Landscape Ekonomi dan Politik dalam Krisis & Transisi (The Economic and Political Landscape during Crisis and Transition), Surakarta, Muhammadiyah University Press. See also M. Sadli (2006), Pemerintah SBY-JK: Berfikir Secara Ekonomis, Politis atau Bisnis? (The SBY-JK Government: Thinking in Economic, Political or Business Terms?), Jakarta, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, ISBN 979-8026-97-7.
- ANTARA :: Professor Sadli passes away at 85
- Bruce Edmond, 'In Praise of Successful Agers', The Jakarta Post Weekender, 24 March 2011. See also Julia Suryakusuma, 'Saparinah Sadli: A feminist transformation', The Jakarta Post, 12 October 2011.
- Annual Sadli Lecture in Jakarta
- Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Indonesia
- Indonesia Project at the Australian National University