Can We Have an Effective Government?

Posted by Admin on Saturday, 16 November 2002 | Opini

By Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo

Jakarta 16 November 2002

It is clear for every body that Indonesia badly needs an effective government. A government that has a vision of a better Indonesia and has the capability to make it a reality. A government that can bring improvements in the disorder that has accumulated since Indonesia was hit by the economic crisis of 1997. The country and the people want to have more security and are tired of the worsening conditions of criminality in the cities, the ethnic fightings, even the dangers on the roads and trains. And the Bali Tragedy is not the first time, although the most devastating, that bombs have disturbed the security of the people.

An effective government is certainly needed to restore the collapsed economy. Other nations in the region have solved the problems encountered since the economic crisis, but Indonesia is still left behind. The flow of outgoing investors is not only a picture after the Bali Tragedy, but of course it is increasing now. That would not be too negative if there is a strong growth of the people’s economy in the form of heightened activities of the small and medium enterprises. Since that is also lacking it is obvious that unemployment has steadily increased.

If the government is unable to make the economy grow it will not be possible to have more government revenues. How can it than fulfill the President’s promis to increase the budget for the TNI and the Police. And how to implement the MPR’s decree that the government should give priority to national education by committing at least 20 procent of its budget for that purpose ? The government has admitted that for the coming year it cannot spend more than 4 procent on education due to its weak financial condition. The improvement of the security apparatus and the national education are significant factors for the achievement of a better Indonesia which is the aim of the National Reform started in 1998.

There are many other reasons why Indonesia needs an effective government. The question is how to have it, which means that the present one is not effective. The present government is not effective because there is a lack of a strong and decisive leadership. For Indonesia as a large archipelago with a population of more than 200 million people and consisting of many ethnicities there can be no effective government without strong leadership. A strong leadership needs not to be authoritarian, but it should be able to motivate and gain the confidence and respect of the majority of the people. So that it can enforce its will and concepts to make it a reality. It must therefore be able to reach the people and communicate with it. Our first President Soekarno was a very good example and it is a pity that his daughter Megawati cannot follow in his footsteps. Also President Soeharto was an effective leader which he demonstrated by making Indonesia a praised chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1992 until 1995. If Soekarno and Soeharto are strongly criticized, it is certainly not because of lack of strength in leadership.

But although most of the people are not satisfied with Megawati’s undecisive leadership, the situation will not improve by replacing her now. With all her shortcomings it is still better for the nation to have her as the president rather than to replace her with another. With the present political system candidates for the presidency must come from the political parties or have to be elected by them. The political parties are not interested to elect anybody from outside, but they themselves do not have leaders of higher quality than Megawati. And it is definitely not proper for the country to have three shorttime governments in a row. The two Presidents Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid did not last longer than 20 months; it would be very bad if President Megawati also has to step down so soon. It is better that her government can last until the elections in 2004.

Unless President Megawati changes her leadership style we will therefore not have an effective government until 2004. With the new system of presidential election the coming president will be elected directly by the people. Nevertheless political parties have still a lot to say because they nominate the presidential candidates. It is doubtful whether they will change their attitude and will be willing to nominate somebody who is not their member. But let us hope that they are ready to do that so that socalled independents can participate in the presidential elections. Because that will broaden the scope for improvement of the national leadership rather than relying only on party leaders. That will be a possibility for an effective government if there are strong leaders among the independent candidates.

If only party leaders are nominated there is no other choice than what can be observed today. Namely Megawati supported by her PDIP, Hamzah Haz with his PPP, Dr. Amien Rais with PAN and perhaps Abdurrahman Wahid who seems to be ambitious to make a come-back supported by PKB. The present problems surrounding Golkar’s chairman Akbar Tandjung will make it difficult for them to field an attractive candidate. Perhaps Dr. Yusril Ihza Mahendra with his PBB will also appear. Also Dr. Ryaas Rasyid and Dr. Syahrir who have both declared their new political parties. However, it is very doubtful whether these candidates can get a large majority support from the people. If they are ultimately elected they have to depend on their respective parties. Since no one party is strong enough to gain an absolute majority they have to build coalitions with other parties. Because these leaders have not demonstrated strong leadership so far, it will be difficult to expect them to create an effective government.

Looking at this situation the best hope for an effective government in 2004 is to have independent candidates who have the confidence and respect of the majority of the people. Based on that fact the elected non-party president can rally a political party to back him because the people’s support to him will also benefit the party that back him. With the support of the majority of the people and a political party the new president can establish a government that can lead the nation efectively for at least 5 years.

One must however admit that there are so many question marks in this analysis. The first is the uncertainty between now and 2004; one can only hope that in spite of the weaknesses of the present government there will be no serious events with very negative consequences for the nation. The second important question is whether in 2004 will appear an independent candidate who can build a strong support of the majority of the people. The third not less important question is the willingness of a political party to nominate an independent candidate for the presidential elections. All these questions make us quite doubtful that we can have an effective government even in 2004.

There are people who play with the idea of an army intervention. This speculation will not happen, however, because the TNI has no tradition of making coup d’etats and will not start one. The TNI leadership fully realizes that the people will not condone an intervention in political affairs, especially after the Reform, and will not risk its reputation by gambling on it. The TNI is serious and fully committed to support the democratic process in Indonesia. Unfortunately this democratic process has not been able to develop effective leadership among the civilian political elite.

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