Wednesday, December 30, 2009

RIP: Gus Dur

We were deeply saddened to hear KH Abdurrahman ‘Gus Dur’ Wahid has passed away.

Gus Dur became the fourth president of Indonesia in 1999. At that time, I was in Canberra, Aco in Champaign, Ujang in East Lansing, Sjamsu on the way to Washington, DC from Ithaca, and Rizal in Kukusan Beji, Depok. It was a funny process. There was yet to be a direct presidential election. The president was elected by the MPR which consists of 500 elected DPR members, and another 195 non-elected members.

Megawati’s PDIP was the winner of the election. That made her the strongest candidate to become the president. But there was a strong resentment against having a female president, mainly from the Islamic parties. Some last minute maneuvers inside the MPR, known as ‘Poros Tengah’ initiated by Amien Rais (then MPR Chairman) broke the deadlock by installing Gus Dur as the president and gave Megawati the VP chair.

Gus Dur was a great pluralist, humanist, pro-democratic, moderate Muslim leader. Unfortunately, he was not a good president. Worse, he was an erratic president. Of course, he had great agenda. Some of which he could achieve – like bringing down the discriminative barriers against ethnic Chinese, pushing forward pluralism ideas, eliminating SIUPP and removing 'culture' from the Ministry of Education and Culture. But his erratic style made it hard for almost everyone to understand what he was doing, let alone to execute his other agendas. Soon the supports for him waned.

His most famous catchphrase was “Gitu aja kok repot?” In some ways, this proved to be an optimal strategy to deal with criticisms and dirty politicking. The problem was he used this strategy too much, even for things that needed his serious attention. Our senior colleague Hadi Soesastro once told a story when he, Prof. Emil Salim and some other senior economists gave an economic briefing, Gus Dur literally fell asleep. After someone woke him up, he just said, “Right, you take care of the economy…”

His presidency reached the anticlimax in July 2001 when the same MPR which elected him less than two years earlier agreed to impeach him following the infamous ‘Buloggate’ and ‘Bruneigate’ scandals. The same MPR which rejected Megawati then elected her to be the fifth president.

Nevertheless, no one can disagree that he was a great person. One of the best Indonesians we’ve ever had. And we will surely miss him. So long, Gus… Have a nice rest, now you no longer have to be repot

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the octopus book

Re all this brouhaha on a new book by George Aditjondro, regular visitors might already know my take. Yes, I'm against any book banning -- regardless of the type and the quality of the book.

I'm not a big fan of Aditjondro. Far from that. So I have no interest in finding or reading his book. But if the center of criticism ie The President feels disturbed by that book, ban is not an option. It's good that SBY has expressed his will not to do that.

How to Read Newspaper Without Feeling Sorry

Let us read two examples on how journalist writes a column on bailout issues.

One is Andi Suruji's Kolom Politik-Ekonomi, Sistemik...!, Kompas, 12/26/09. The other is David Leonhardt's Economic Scene, Perhaps, It's Time to Play Offense, NYT, 9/16/08

If I gave Leonhardt's piece an A, what should I grade Suruji's?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Books banned, again

Five books are officialy banned by Attorney General Office (Kompas, 26/12). They are: "Pembunuhan Massal Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Soeharto", "Suara Gereja bagi Umat Penderitaan Tetesan Darah dan Cucuran Air Mata Umat Tuhan di Papua Barat Harus Diakhiri", "Lekra Tak Membakar Buku Suara Lenyap Lembar Kebudayaan Harian Rakyat 1950-1965", (until this, I thought the ban was because these books had painfully long and tasteless titles -- of course I was wrong) "Enam Jalan Menuju Tuhan", and "Mengungkap Misteri Keragaman Agama".

Book ban? Again? What an insult to humanity.

Defending infotainment

While we defend Luna Maya's right to express her anger towards some infotainment crews, we should make it clear that we likewise defend infotainment's rights to exist.

We therefore disapprove recent call (notably by some clerics) for banning infotainment. If you don't like such program, just turn off your TV or switch to other programs.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

To those celebrating it, Cafe Salemba wish you all a lovely Christmas!

Luna Maya

We hereby declare our full support for Luna Maya and against the infotainment journalists who sued her for expressing her ill feeling towards the latter, in her own twitter account.

Luna, from now on you can have coffee here for free as long as you like. Ariel can join, if he so likes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take-Home Final Exam Question

Suppose you have these finding from Reinhart and Rogoff (AER: 2009) showing that a banking crisis on average causes:

a. Unemployment to rise for 4.8 years, with an increase in the unemployment rate of about 7 percentage point.
b. Real GDP to decline for 1.9 years, with a decline in real GDP of about 9.3 percent.
c. Cumulative public debt to rise 186.3 percent in the three years following the crisis.


a. What is the probability (P) you are willing to assign that not bailing-out Bank Century will not lead to a banking crisis?
b. Multiply P with either a, b, or, c finding above-mentioned. Do you still let Bank Century collapse? Of course you can put the cost of moral-hazard into your equation.


Submit your answer to those Indonesian lawmakers in that special committee before they get confused.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

No Century for You (Yet)

Some of you may wonder why I don't serve something on Century brouhaha. It's for a simple reason: I do not have reliable data or information that can, to some extent, be verified. I follow the newspaper and some facebook debates, but the best I can have is something called investigative reports based on either BPK's audit report or BI's press release.

And crime investigation is not my thing.

But let me tell you my normative stance here. First, bank's bailout at time of crisis is theoretically defendable and systemic risk is not a snake-oil jargon. Second, any corruption related to the bailout should be investigated by authorized parties with credible tools and skills. As for political accountability joke process, just bring it on. I am always confident that ordinary citizens in general aren't that stupid.

Fair enough, yes?

Now, what Manohara has to do with Century? That's the question.