We’ve Lost ‘a Capable Architect,’ SBY Says of Former Economy Minister

By webadmin on 06:27 pm Mar 09, 2012
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Indonesia’s former economic czar Widjojo Nitisastro died early on Friday
in Jakarta at age 84, prompting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to
praise his work as the foundation for the country’s economic growth.

“This
is a big loss for the country,” Yudhoyono said in a speech paying his
respects before the economist’s body was taken to Kalibata Heroes
Cemetery for burial later in the afternoon.

Widjojo, who held
several ministerial posts under President Suharto until 1983, remained a
trusted advisor who continued to work with Yudhoyono up until his
death.

Yudhoyono said Widjojo was the leading architect of
Indonesia’s economy, with many of his ideas forming the cornerstone of
the country’s economic policies, especially during the early New Order
era.

“At that time, Indonesia’s economic strategy could not be separated from his ideas,” he said.

Ministers and former ministers attended the burial in Kalibata, where Vice President Boediono delivered a farewell speech.

Senior
economist Emil Salim, a presidential advisor and Widjojo’s colleague
during the New Order administration, praised Widjojo for always taking
the side of the poor.

“Pak Widjojo always told us to be rational
and take sides with the weakest segment of the society,” Emil said. “He
advocated a fairer trade between developed and developing countries so
free trade would not only benefit rich countries.”

Emil cited
the creation of the country’s pro-poor programs under Widjojo’s auspices
during the New Order’s early years — family planning, free public
elementary schools and community health centers — as examples of
Widjojo’s egalitarian stance in action.

“Those programs are still relevant and important even now,” he said.

Armida
Alisjahbana, the state minister for national development planning, said
her former mentor at the University of Indone sia’s economic school had
never ceased to be an economist and had gone on to advise the younger
generation of economists on many policy issues.

“He always
provided students, including myself, with input. He would hand out
envelopes full of articles he thought we should read,” said Armida, a
graduate of the school.

Widjojo became a full professor of
economics at the University of Indonesia in 1962 at the age of 34. He is
considered the leading member of the so-called “Berkeley Mafia,” a
group of University of California-educated economists.

While
controversies surrounding the group never ceased, they managed to bring
back Indonesia from dire economic conditions and the brink of massive
famine in the mid-1960s at the end of Sukarno’s era and early emergence
of Suharto.

Other members of the group, all senior Indonesian
economists, were generally considered to include Ali Wardhana, Mohammad
Sadli, Emil Salim and Subroto.

They were appointed to assume e
conomic posts in the early stages of the New Order administration,
leading to almost 30 years of high economic growth.

Widjojo held
ministerial rank in successive Indonesian cabinets from the early 1970s
until 1983. He continued to be influential as one of the president’s
most trusted advisers throughout the 1980s. He worked closely with
President Suharto until he resigned in 1998.

“When I met him in 2010, he was still sharp, and we discussed many issues related to the country’s economy,” Armida said.

With reporting from Investor Daily