What We Need Is Leadership

Posted by Admin on Wednesday, 30 October 2002 | Opini

By Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo

Jakarta, October 2002

Drs. Kwik Kian Gie, minister for National Development Planning and chairman of Bappenas, has surprised many people when he strongly suggested that Indonesia should terminate its relationship with IMF at the end of 2002. In fact, this is not the first time that Kwik has expressed his dissatisfaction of IMF. But that he would do it as a member of President Megawati’s cabinet, is something that causes surprise. Because it is public knowledge that Prof. Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti, the coordinating minister for economic, financial and industrial affairs, is a staunch defender of Indonesia’s relations with IMF.

In Indonesia Kwik is not alone in his negative opinion of IMF. Dr. Rizal Ramli, economic coordinating minister and minister of finance in the former Abdurrahman Wahid’s cabinet, shares this view. And so are other economists, many of them having important positions in Indonesian public life. But on the other side Dorodjatun has also friends who share his views. Some of them are equally strong in their belief and even dare to say that Indonesia will go bankrupt without IMF’s support.

The debate that developed between the economists with conflicting views became quite hot and might be very interesting for the intellectual elite of the country. But it does not ease the difficult life of the common people and the heavy economic burden they have to bear. And a debate between ministers of the same cabinet about such an important issue is definitely counter-productive for Megawati’s leadership of the nation.

It is a fact that many economists in the world have expressed a strong criticism of the way IMF is playing its role in supporting developing nations. Not long ago Prof.Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize laureate for economy in 2001, former economic adviser to President Clinton and former chief economist of the World Bank, stated that IMF’s stanch on market fundamentalism is fundamentally false. Namely, that the market of itself will create a balance between supply and demand and is a key for growth and development. IMF’s prescription to the nations it is supposed to support has caused much more human suffering than solving those nations’ economic problems. He also stated that IMF and the US Treasury Department are more inclined to give their efforts to defending the interest of big investment bankers than paying attention to poor and developing nations.

With the credentials of Dr. Stiglitz as an economic scientist and his experience with the World Bank and the US government, we must assume that what he stated publicly is truth. And Stiglitz is not the only economist of international fame that criticizes IMF and its behaviour. Looking from this point Kwik and his partners are on the right side. However, Dorodjatun and his friends are equally convinced of Indonesia’s uncertain future when it drops the IMF.

Malaysia has shown that it could solve its economic crisis problems without IMF’s support. Already at the start of the crisis in 1997 Malaysia decided not to request IMF’s support. And Malaysia is now in a good and safe economic position. That is a proof that a developing nation facing economic crisis need not to have IMF’s support. We can therefore say that Dorodjatun’s pessimism might be an exaggeration. After Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea also opted for dropping IMF’s support. The conclusion is that it mght not be impossible for Indonesia to do the same. That makes Kwik the man with the right intention for Indonesia.

If that is true, why was Kwik unable to steer the Indonesian economy in safe waters when he was the economic coordinating minister. The same goes for Rizal Ramli. Both of them as the boss or commanding generals in Indonesia’s economic struggle were in the position to free Indonesia from IMF’s support and take the country out of its present economic troubles. But they were not able to deliver any progress in the bad situation. Without being an economic expert one can observe that nothing has fundamentally changed during their time as Indonesia’s economic czar. It is therefore questionnable whether with their track record they would be able to steer Indonesia out of the crisis without IMF support.

It is very sad for an Indonesian patriot to realize that today the other Asian nations have already left the crisis that started in 1997, but Indonesia alone is still fighting to get out. Of course, any right thinking Indonesian would very much welcome Indonesia’s self reliance and not longer has to depend on the IMF, World Bank or any other international financial institute. Indonesians envy Malaysia that has been successful in its economic struggle, whereas Indonesia basically has similar capabilities. Moreover, Indonesia is gifted with a lot of valuable natural resources, in particular oil and gas.

But Malaysia was able to achieve success because it has the right leadership in the person of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It is doubtful whether without his leadership success has been achieved.
We also see China’s economic progress because of the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, who started economic reform in a very fundamental way since 1979. Later he was replaced by Jiang Zemen and Zhu Rongji who were all very strong in leading China toward progress. Without that strong leadership China would not be in the position she is today.

Also Germany after the Second World War was able to demonstrate a Wirtschaftswunder or economic miracle because of the leadership of Konrad Adenauer supported and later replaced by Ludwig Erhard. It is quite interesting that among the names just mentioned only Ludwig Erhard is an economist. Mahathir the medical doctor turned politician, Deng Xiaoping a PLA general with the engineers Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, and Konrad Adenauer the lawyer. It is not the basic background that is important, but the capability to demonstrate leadership in difficult times.

It is clear that the problem for Indonesia is not the question of dropping or maintaining IMF support. But the capability of our elite to demonstrate the right leadership. Do we have people who have a strong enough ambition to create a strong national economy ?. Are there people who strongly want to alleviate the people from poverty, providing food and homes, education and health service attainable for every one of this nation ? And ready to perform the leadership and management to achieve these goals by motivating the people and taking them along for a struggle to produce results.

Leadership that can set the example and get the people’s trust. Which is necessary for suffering temporarily to reach a great achievement afterward. In Indonesia we say Jer Basuki Mawa Bea or If you want success you must ber prepared to suffer first. Not leadership that only can talk without doing anything important. Let us suggest to our economists that theorizing and debating is definitely very good and important for the economic science. But the realities of Life require action that produce results and improvement.

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