Saturday, March 24, 2012

Widjojo #289

In a meeting in his office in the old Littauer, a senior Harvard Econ faculty told me, "Widjojo is the best technocrat I know in my entire career". Some years ago, in a centuries-old college in another Cambridge, England, Widjojo's name came up as a prime example on how to run economic development.

When I told him Pak Widjojo passed away, another faculty here, familiar with contemporary Indonesian political economy said, "I wish history did better justice to him". This is how I know Widjojo -- through other respectable people's high appreciation. Unlike Aco, I've never had an opportunity to even directly talk to him.

But, you don't have to know him in person to recognize that he must have had done something right. The easiest way is by comparing all Indonesian economic indicators in late 1960s to now. You may say that we don't have counter-factual evidence, but if one said he worked to make Indonesia more prosperous and the data says so, this is the least uncertain fact we can take. Widjojo deserved the credit and, for me, no doubt about it.

Widjojo strongly believed in the strength of economics analysis in development. If Gary Becker proposed an economic approach to human behavior in 1978, Widjojo wrote in his inaugural speech as Guru Besar FEUI, on the importance of economic analysis on development planning, back in 1963. He also wrote on the role of research in universities. Fifty-years ago, very few in Indonesia thought about it and the words "economics", let alone "research" was very foreign to us.

Widjojo knew and, without so much fuss, showed that economics and research can make a big difference to human lives and well-beings. He quietly showed us, especially at FEUI, perhaps indirectly, that proper economics matters a lot.

And this is why Pak Widjojo will be sorely missed.

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