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Showing posts for "Indonesia"

Indonesia: The Downside of Decentralization

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Activists carry an Indonesian flag in Jakarta. Activists carry an Indonesian flag in Jakarta (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past decade and a half, Indonesia’s democratic transition has been praised (including by me)  as one of the most impressive of any developing country in the world. The distance traveled from the chaos, and potential split-up of the country, in the late 1990s, to the relative stability and high growth of today, is truly impressive. One of the main aspects of the democratization often highlighted by both Indonesia experts and many Indonesians themselves is how the country utilized political and economic devolution to reduce the power of Jakarta, cut the legacy of Suharto’s rule, increase local participation in politics and the economy, and improve citizens’ feeling of belonging to the polity. Read more »

Positive Signs in Indonesia’s Fight Against Graft

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian President Yudhoyono accompanied by first lady Yudhoyono wave their hands at the end of a ceremony marking Indonesia's 67th Independence Day in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, August 17, 2012. Indonesian President Yudhoyono accompanied by first lady Yudhoyono wave their hands at the end of a ceremony marking Indonesia's 67th Independence Day in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, August 17, 2012 (Enny Nuraheni/Courtesy Reuters).

Over at Asia Sentinel, a report analyzes how Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission appears to be going after high-ranking Democratic Party official and allies suspected of bribery, including several very close to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Commission, known as the KPK in Indonesia, has also taken on the National Police, which is often considered by many Indonesians as now more corrupt than the army. The police have been empowered over the past decade by successive governments as the army has had its powers (rightly) curtailed. The devolution of powers to provincial and subprovincial areas also has reduced the power of the army, except in areas where there is still serious conflict, like in Papua. Read more »

Indonesia Exhumes the Past

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia's President Yudhoyono waits to give his keynote address during the opening of the 11th IISS Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore (Tim Chong/courtesy Reuters) Indonesia's President Yudhoyono waits to give his keynote address during the opening of the 11th IISS Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore (Tim Chong/courtesy Reuters)

Lost in the slow news of summer, the Olympics, and the conflict over the South China Sea, last week Indonesia released a report that was truly groundbreaking for Southeast Asia, in its willingness to examine serious past human rights abuses. In Thailand, the killings of 2010, in the streets of Bangkok, have not been properly examined, in a way that clearly assigns blame and ends controversy. In Myanmar, despite the promising political reforms, there has of yet been no real effort to analyze the vast abuses committed over the past fifty years by the military and the ethnic armies. In Cambodia, the Hun Sen government has for years stalled serious investigation of past crimes by the Khmer Rouge (KR). Cambodia under Hun Sen also has not included the KR period in most textbooks for Cambodian schools. Read more »

New Indonesian Law Constrains Gas Exports

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia's President Yudhoyono waits to give his keynote address during the opening of the 11th IISS Asia Security Summit. Kurlantzick discusses Yudhoyono’s recent attempts to reduce Indonesia’s openness to investment, and focus on domestic concerns. Indonesia's President Yudhoyono waits to give his keynote address during the opening of the 11th IISS Asia Security Summit. Kurlantzick discusses Yudhoyono’s recent attempts to reduce Indonesia’s openness to investment, and focus on domestic concerns (Tim Chong/Courtesy Reuters).

Over at Asia Sentinel, today there is a succinct overview of the announcement, made on July 4, that the Indonesian government may stop the signing of any new deals to export natural gas. According to Asia Sentinel, the director general of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry announced that the administration may use this moratorium to shift natural gas deliveries to more domestic users, such as a range of Indonesian industries. But Asia Sentinel reports that Indonesia also has vast reserves of natural gas, and that to utilize more of it for domestic uses would require sizable changes in its gas delivery infrastructure. Indonesia does have a strong domestic economy, and local companies certainly are going to see demands for gas grow, but this announcement comes as part of a trend. Read more »

Can the Bloom Return to Indonesia’s Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin Muhammad, escorted by policemen, leaves the Corruption Eradication Commission office in Jakarta. Former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin Muhammad, escorted by policemen, leaves the Corruption Eradication Commission office in Jakarta. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Months of revelations of alleged scandals of major figures in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party has slowly but surely dragged down public opinion in Indonesia of the government, and largely destroyed SBY’s second term. Though SBY himself is still seen by most people as personally honest —a rare commodity in Indonesian politics — that view of him as an exception is coming to matter less and less, as the public increasingly sees him as so indecisive and captured by corrupt, old-fashioned allies, that whether or not he is personally clean becomes relatively unimportant. Read more »

Indonesia’s Surprising Resilience

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A superblock developed by Agung Podomoro, one of Indonesia’s biggest property developers, is seen in Jakarta January, 2012. Indonesia’s economy grew by 6.5 percent in 2011. A superblock developed by Agung Podomoro, one of Indonesia’s biggest property developers, is seen in Jakarta January, 2012. Indonesia’s economy grew by 6.5 percent in 2011. (Supri/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, The Economist had a fine overview of the surprising resilience of the Indonesian economy, which it nicknamed the “Komodo economy” – tough and resilient, and surprisingly quick. Indeed, Indonesia grew by 6.5 percent in 2011, one of the highest growth rates of any emerging economy, and its fastest growth rate, The Economist noted, since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which devastated the country. Growth projections for 2012 are similarly rosy, despite labor unrest in several parts of the country, including in Papua; a weak international economic climate that shows little signs of improving; slow progress on cutting trade barriers within ASEAN; and Indonesia’s continuing massive problems with graft and misallocation of capital, some of which is a result of the decentralization program embarked upon over the past decade. Read more »

What to Expect in Asia in 2012

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Traders stand near a screen showing the Indonesia Stock Exchange Composite Index during the first day of trading for 2012 in Jakarta January 2, 2012. Courtesy Reuters/Stringer.

It’s been a fascinating year for Asia. The region has continued to consolidate its role as the essential player driving global recovery. Developing Asia, including China, India, and the major ASEAN economies, maintained robust growth, in contrast to the advanced economies’ collective anemic growth over the same period.

But 2012 promises to be more fraught as domestic politics take command amid new challenges to growth.

Here are twelve trends I see coming for Asia in 2012—risks, opportunities, and emerging patterns that will shape Asia during the next twelve months, and beyond.

Read more »

Southeast Asia: What to Expect in 2012

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011.

Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

The year 2011 saw some of the biggest political developments in Southeast Asia in decades. Burma finally seemed poised for real change, while Thailand continued to move closer to the brink of self-immolation, as political in-fighting worsened. The United States, China, and ASEAN nations continued to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, to a point where, now, it seems unlikely anyone can back off their claims and truly sit down at the table to negotiate some kind of agreement. Singapore had its most competitive election in generations, while in Malaysia massive street protests clearly have rattled the government. Even smaller states faced political turmoil: Papua New Guinea went for weeks with two prime ministers and the potential for civil strife, before the situation was resolved.

What, then, should we expect for an encore? Here are several trends to watch:

  1. China will bring back the charm. Over the past two years, Beijing has cost itself much of the gains it made in Southeast Asia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it appeared to be a good neighbor, trading partner, and investor. Through its belligerent approach to the South China Sea and, to some extent, the Mekong River, Beijing has scared many Southeast Asian nations enough that they have welcomed back a greater role for the United States in the region, even though their populations have not exactly become pro-American. Read more »

Can India and America Up Their Investment Game?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum
Commuters on a suburban train during the morning rush hour in Mumbai.

Commuters on a suburban train during the morning rush hour in Mumbai.Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters.

My latest column is out in India’s financial daily, the Business Standard. I used this month’s column to talk a bit about structural impediments hindering U.S. investment in India. These challenges will grow if, as many economists suspect, India’s growth continues to slow from its restored post-crisis clip of 8 to 9 percent a year to something more on the order of 7 to 7.5 percent. And in that context, it’s worth noting that Indian stocks have just completed their worst quarter since 2008. And of course food price inflation remains as stubborn as ever.

Here’s my argument, which reflects in part a perspective from my new perch in Chicago rather than Washington, DC:

Read more »

Wikileaks and Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange smiles as he arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in east London.

Founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange smiles as he arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in east London (Toby Melville/Courtesy Reuters).

The recent releases of new batches of Wikileaks cables, many of which reveal the names of protected sources for American diplomats, has roiled diplomatic relations nearly everywhere in the world, and certainly made potential informants more scared of talking to U.S. diplomats. But the cache of cables available about Southeast Asia is among the largest, if not the largest, of any embassy. And recent weeks have seen the release of cables with major news stories, including:

  • A cable interviewing Singaporean Straits Times editors and reporters who claim that the government applies significant pressure on them to take a rosy view of its policies. Some of the finest Straits Times’ reporters, frustrated by what they perceive as government pressure, try to remain in overseas bureaus, where they are much freer (and put out fine work) or simply leave the Straits Times entirely.

Read more »