I have not been to Indonesia for many years, since last that I left the country in 2006. The country has always fascinate me due to the natural gift of God for the abundance of natural resources, beauty, and with many ethnics and imbued culture of the Archipelago.Furthermore, it is also a subject of interest for me to learn and observe the socio-economic-and political changes that were and are taking place in the Country.
Indonesia, is the largest country in South East Asia, the largest economy as well as land mass (including water mass), with more than 3000 islands sprawling from one end to another. With more than hundreds of ethnics and sub-ethnics, local dialect and culture, people with various colours and faces as well features. You can see almost African look people (from Papua) and Indian look people (from Aceh), Philippine like (from Manado), and all the rest of mixes in between.You have Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and animism, all in ever presence. The Muslims, you can see various groupings among them, as well as the Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists alike.
After the spate of “reformasi” under after Suharto, Indonesia was under a period of turmoil, as the Nation tries to re-establish itself, under a “new” political regime of open democracy.The media is fully “open” and “free”, and not under the control of any regimes or political groupings.People are free to form political parties or associations, as long as they have the means to do so, and nobody will stop you from doing that.Any groups are free to do any business as long as you are able to do that. In another word, the free environment exists.
The system of check and balance started to appear to be working; No President can win an election unless he draws compromises from many other parties, and you do not see homogeneous group in control of the politics of the country. SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) as the President is being supported by Ministers from all sorts of background. For example, the Vice President (Boediono) was not much a party man, but rather came from administrative background, you have a Balinese (Jero Wacik) Minister of Energy and Minerals, Hatta Rajasa from Palembang (Partai Amanah Rakyat), and so on. An interesting example if Mr.Dahlan Iskan, who is a rank and file personality, rising from being a common journalists, to the position of CEO of Perushaan Listrik Negara (PLN), and the appointed as Minister of State Enterprise. The President, while still have a lot of power, have to share his power and authorities with many other people from various sorts of background. He also have to hear what the media and criticisms launch at him, and he have to act based on the popular public discourse and opinion.
All of these provides some forms of stability to the political process in the country; and we can even see recent cases of peoples power, by the rise of Jokowi as the new governor of Jakarta, while himself came from a very humble background; defeating the incumbent, Mr. Fawzi Bowo, who is pretty much entrenched in the Jakarta political set up and administration. Fawzi was defeated by considerable margin. What I would like to say is we are seeing a “working democracy” at works.
I am a believer that human beings are given by God full capacity to reason, if they are given free chance to do so. while that chance may not necessarily works all the time, but it works most of the time. This is god’s given rationality to human being. The challenge that Indonesia was facing, were humongous. When I came to the country right the in the middle of riots and pillaging of 1997/1998, the environment was chaotic and extremely uncertain. Financial system were in a mess, currency was worthless, and the human suffering were tremendous.To come to what the country have achieved today, is somewhat can be called as the “real miracle” of South East Asia (instead of the old “Asian Miracle” as touted by World Bank in 1996).
While all the praises seems to be due, I am not saying that there are no danger on problems that the Country is facing today. The country still have along way to go on many counts, and it is far from settled. The problems it is facing are far from over, and the balance as we see today, can be disturbed at any time, and issues can get flared quite fast.
Let me then make few of these comments on some of the major issues:
1. “Democratization of Corruption”
Corruption is still endemic. Despite all the efforts to eradicate corruption, the subject will not just go away. And this will only go away through only one solution “sustainable economic growth”. And there is no other way. All the rests of the efforts are just to curb and provide check and balance in order not to allow corruption to go out of hand. KPK (Komisi Pembanteras Korupsi) as they are called, is quite an independent body, which are functioning quite well (to the degree that it should function). But to hope on KPK to be the problem solver, would be quite foolish.
Corruption also has its own diabolical side: it allows economic growth to happen. It speeds otherwise mammoth agencies to works and coordinates; speeds up approval process, and reduces paperworks.That is because, the people handling the issues that arise out of decentralization of power and authority – which helps on one end, and increase corruptions on the other end. The agents will assists and helps, because they are part of the beneficiary. Indonesia used to suffer from centralize corruption, onto a decentralize corruption. Don’t ever imagine that Government officers to survive on meagre salaries of US1000 per year not take in from other sources? In fact, the other sources are more lucrative than the salaries offered. But why they want the position? Because it gives these economic rents. What we have now is instead of corruption is centralized on nepotism and collusion at Jakarta level, now we have at all provincial and sub-provincial level. Before, only very few get rich, now many more becomes rich.
For this – I called these process as “democratization of corruption”. Is it bad? Yes off course. But it seems that is the only way that it can go. Otherwise, you have a much more chaotic environment to live in. It provides a bit of rules and order, to go by, albeit it is illegal way. People also learn how to be corrupt in a smart way, and not the obvious way. People learn to be corrupt, but they observe the limits, and they share together among the group (collusions). Nobody can be corrupt, and enjoy alone, but rather they have to be together. Each people observes their limits and not to transgress it. Each also knows that I can make some but not too much, since it will attract too much attention, and I will be out of line and in trouble. And so on. This is very interesting thing to observe and to learn. But one thing that I have to admit: it helps the movements of economy; so despite these endemic corruptions – the economy keeps on chugging at 6% growth per annum – the best in South East Asia.
2. Gap between the Rich and the Poor
This is the most alarming of all, and most unsustainable part of the country.
As the economy grow, the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer.There are no clear solutions in sight, as the are no real plan that I would say would overcome this. The problems are massive, the number of poor people are a lot. This subject deserves a special discussion by itself, which I will do so in next few writings.
3. Sustainable Management of Resources
This is another area that deserves attention.
4. Economic Growth and Future of Prosperity of the Nation
Again, I will come to this subject later on.
That’s all for now.
21 Oct 2012