i remember 2 days ago reading an article by the straits times indonesia correspondent about how indonesia has (not) progressed much since the asian financial crisis, in terms of the lives of the ordinary and poor and even with respect to the indicators.

in that respect, reform has been slow. it seems a lot has changed, politics and press wise. there is a great deal of criticism and focus whenever something goes wrong in the country. for example, one particular case is the lapindo mudslide disaster, which followed an earlier earthquake in the region, where a drilling company accidentally released a huge volume of mud which is still flowing, burying entire villages and important infrastructure in east java. the company is associated with the coordinating minister for welfare, aburizal bakrie. other stories i have come across here are a car hurtling down 6 stories off a multi-story carpark because the barriers were too thinly built. and this in addition to the big problem with flooding and traffic jams in jakarta, as well as power cuts. add that to the various political problems in outlying areas, and the constancy of natural disasters (flood, tsunami, earthquake, airplane crash), and it seems like a real mess.

in any case, there is no doubt there is freedom of the press. in that respect atrocities are no longer easy to cover up. the tone in the press, however, tends to be negative. combined with a democratic government, sen predicts that famines shouldn't happen (and they don't), and they should mitigate atrocities. however, i can't help feeling a huge sense of cynicism and mistrust between the people and the politicians.

i think a lot of effort and time have been spent ironing out politics and the details of a new power structure. i think it's necessary, given the vacuum and this chance to sort out a new, less repressive structure. and i feel now they are moving slightly, with the new investment law and the current government being pro-business, and they are reforming, and going ahead with some tough policies, like raising oil prices and being fiscally sensible. being fiscally sensible, however, means they cannot just throw money at problems, and the amount of problems coming at them sometimes overwhelms the resources that they have. and i can understand their anxiety at globalization. people focus a lot on liberalization and i think that is essential. however, i think it is possible to be intelligent about it and negotiate from a position of strength. i have no doubt that china and india are globalizing, but they are clever enough to do with some restraint, such that they benefit too from the FDI. they are here just building FDI to pre-crisis levels (it is still less).

so i guess it is right, the mistrust has to go first. otherwise the government may be tempted to be too plebeian first when that hasn't worked in the past. for example, aburizal bakrie may not be the most sensitive bloke in the whole world with his comments, considering he is welfare minister, but he is right, he hasn't run away from the problem by declaring bankrupt and is putting up his own money to solve the lapindo problem.

it still has a lot to offer. nightlife and food, some of the best in asia. as i said, reminds me of 1960's singapore in a wong kar wai film.

No comments: