Indonesia Is Seen as a Work in Progress
While many members of the business community and political observers acknowledge tremendous progress in Indonesia’s 67 years as an independent country, others say further political and economic reforms are needed.
Sofyan Wanandi, chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), said that in commemorating Independence Day, Indonesians should not boast about 6.5 percent economic growth because “in all fairness, that figure is too low.”
He said reforms in the country’s legal framework and boosting infrastructure development would give the country the capacity to grow further.
“In my calculation,” he said, “we should have attained GDP growth of 8 to 9 percent, because even during the autocratic era of Suharto, where we lacked many facilities and did not have a democratic life, we were able to make an average of 8 percent growth over a 25-year period
He stressed that the progress made in the days of Suharto should have served as a stepping-stone to greater things.
“We have failed to provide the necessary infrastructure to bolster socioeconomic and business development,” he said. “I have been shouting about this almost every day, but no one listens. We have gone too far with euphoria from our democratic and regional autonomy, and wasted so much time and energy. This is why we have only reached such meager growth.
“All of our leaders, including the president, must unite. Everybody must realize that we are in the midst of a tough global competition.”
Noted economist Rizal Ramli says the fruits of the nation’s development have been enjoyed mostly by the upper 20 percent of society, with another 20 percent still struggling in uncertainty to catch up.
The remaining 60 percent, he said, is still spending most of its time dreaming about enjoying a better standard of living.
The legislative body should correct the situation, Rizal said, “but the fact is that legislature is itself a pool of corruptors,” so civil society must shout for change.
Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that 67 years after independence, the country was still not very sovereign.
“Our political sovereignty is a question mark because there is still the perception that we cannot elect a president until he or she is approved by a certain big power,” Ikrar said. “Even in electing our own finance minister, the perception is that we need a nod from international agencies.”