Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The President Needs to Update His Reading Materials

SBY's jumbled speech against "communism", "capitalism", and "neoliberalism" on the 60th National Cooperative Day in Nusa Dua, Bali, has not gone entirely unnoticed. Ape said it's a pointless speech. In his fourth dispatch for us, MT writes that SBY has grown to be an ineffective president, and his incoherent speech merely reflects the administration's incoherent policies. - Manager
The President Needs to Update His Reading Materials
by MT

Whenever leaders fail they resort to either fascism or populism. More than two years after he was directly elected president, with an unprecedented level of popularity, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally registered the worst in his job approval rate. He also has grown to become ineffective President, with all his directives getting lost in the redundant bureaucracy. Case in point, his handling of Lapindo mudflow (also more than two years after the infrastructure summit, investors are running away from numerous toll roads project).

Last year, I went with him in a visit to Singapore and Malaysia during which he met with prominent business circle and offered scores of projects, but to this day I never heard them expressed interests. The palace asked me to join the President for a trip to South Korea next week, but I am taking a leave already). It is therefore predictable, that his administration resorted to jingoistic terms when dealing with calls for separatism.

In only less than a month, Yudhoyono administration had to deal with what could be considered as efforts on seccesionism; the South Maluku Republic (RMS) flag-waving incident in Ambon, the display of Morning Star flag during a dance performance at the Papuan Tribal Council Congress and the decision by former Free Aceh Movement big wigs to use the symbol of the former rebel group as logo for a new local party. Senior ministers in his cabinet said something about refusing to tolerate separatism and will resort to severe measures to crush it. The separatism issue, however, is a hard sell. Beyond sporadic protests from Muslim student-based organization, we saw no serious and organized responds for the so-termed separatism campaign.

But the most glaring example of Yudhoyono’s incompetence is his ill-advised decision to resort to populism. It is difficult to believe that in the early 21st century, a country leader made a head-scratching call for a rollback to bygone ideals.

The first was his decision with a smack of populism was to disband the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) earlier this year. And last week we learned that the government decided to hike the foreign debt.

Last week, he said something about taking a middle ground between communism and market-based capitalism. Market-based economy, he said, has proved incapable of bringing social justice and equality to the people, and instead fosters greater disparity between rich and poor."Meanwhile, communism, in which the government fully controls the economy, has failed to reach the goal it believes it can achieve," he said. And to ensure equal distribution of wealth, Yudhoyono pledged to boost the roles of the government! But was it not the reason why this country has problems eradicating corruption? The rhetoric, however, was less an indication of his believe to olden days ideals than the incoherence of his government policies. And if his series of stately speech was of any indication, it is obvious that he had problems looking at problems and how to devise policies to address them.

Earlier last week, when he opened the exhibition of tourism-related products, he said the need for Indonesia to jump from capital-intensive economy to creative industry-based one. (I thought we needed first to make a leap from land-based economy to technology-intensive first). In the speech, he also makes a reference to futurist Alvin Toffler (again this is early 21st century and yet he quotes a book conceived like twenty years ago).

But it also dawn in my mind that aside from his haphazard efforts to remain relevant but choosing big, empty slogans, it seems that he needs to read his reading materials.

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