(The Jakarta Post.com, 23 June 2009): The “voice” has spoken! Broer Bian Kie, as Jusuf Wanandi is known to those who revere him both at home and abroad, has begun outlining his thoughts on the presidential election.
For decades, his views have been sought by think tanks all around the world. He played a key role in setting the direction for the New Order which brought stability and growth, at least during the early years.
He established an institution to foster debate on strategic issues and build bridges with academics and practitioners in promoting second-track diplomacy.
To this day, he continues to enlighten fellow citizens, and travels extensively to share his insights with international audiences.
He has weighed and measured President SBY (read “Options for the Presidential Elections 2009: SBY”, The Jakarta Post, Monday June 22, 2009), and found him wanting.
A number of the points Broer makes are very well-considered, but what are the real choices facing Indonesian voters? The incumbent is an individual who, before deciding to contest the Presidency in 2004, said, “*in times like these*..I cannot walk away”.
A few years earlier, he had failed to garner the support of national legislators when he made a bid for the vice presidency.
He had not managed to amass a fortune during his military career, nor did he have a strong party base, but his sense of duty made him run against all odds.
Even though the party he had formed only managed to secure 7 percent of the legislative vote, his straightforward, unpretentious demeanor proved convincing enough to attract more than enough votes to propel him to presidency.
Although he had to relinquish many cabinet positions to others in order to ascertain support in the legislature, he managed to place professionals in a number of key positions.
As the first directly-elected President with a weak power base, he has done a decent job balancing the disparate interests in his own cabinet, the often rapacious parliament and the primordial instincts of the regional elite.
Despite these obstacles, Indonesia is approaching the end of the first full presidential term since the end of the Soeharto era.
With the support of technocrats, he has managed to chart a course for the economy to register a decent growth rate. The GDP has increased, and concomitantly, so has the income per capita.
In fact, per capita GNP has almost doubled from US$1,200 to $2,300 during his term. He managed to repay all IMF loans ahead of schedule, and took the bold step to dissolve the CGI, which had, in one form or another, handled the country’s sovereign loans since the New Order era. It comes as no surprise, then, that the debt ratio declined from 54 to 32 percent.
The quality of growth has not been neglected either, with direct cash transfers, salary hikes and pro-community programs in food, health, and education assisting the needy in an age of escalating energy and food prices.
The unemployment rate fell from 9.9 percent in 2004 to 8.5 percent in 2008. In the same period, poverty declined from 16.7 percent to 15.4 percent.
He has held true to his faith, and put into practice all that he promised during his tenure as co-chair of the Governing Board of the Partnership for Governance Reform. He has helped bring many politicians to justice for corruption, and did not blink when one of his relations was also implicated in a scandal.
Transparency International has actually registered a 20 percent improvement in the Indonesian position on their Corruption Index.
What of the choice of his running mate? Prof. Boediono has devoted his career to service and demonstrated unwavering loyalty to his country.
Soft-spoken, unpretentious, he has always advised his colleagues to seek compromises instead of adopting a confrontational stance. As Minister of Planning he helped forge the country’s future, as Minister of Finance he successfully balanced competing interests, and as Senior Advisor at the National Coordinating Agency for Poverty Alleviation, he supervised the devising of a strategy to empower poor households to independently escape the poverty cycle.
“Can we do better?” is a question we all need to ask. We are constantly reminded about politicians and citizens alike not acting as model citizens or disregarding democracy. But at least now we live in a democracy where such questions can be posed.
We need a leadership which will ensure that all the progress made in governance, human rights, and welfare does not suffer any retrogression.
On the whole, the SBY-Boediono ticket holds the greatest promise. The manner in which President SBY stuck to his choice of running mate despite vocal opposition should serve to dispel any doubts regarding his decisiveness. The strong positions held by the Democratic Party, and the integrity and professional capacity of Prof. Boediono, bode well for the future of Indonesia. I am confident they will leave no stone unturned in their quest to place Indonesia on a more equitable, and hence sustainable, path toward development.
Does the fact that I disagree with him on this point make me respect Broer Bian Kie any less? Not at all, as I share many of his concerns. In fact, I respect him more for coming out strongly against an incumbent. I am sure he will enjoy reading these thoughts from a junior to whom he has provided encouragement from time to time.
*HS. Dillon, The writer is a member of the President’s National Economic Council 1990-2000.