WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY – 03 MAY
--- Role of the Press Key to Indonesia’s Progress
--- SBY Must Keep Ball Rolling in Economy
--- Indonesia Must Keep the Wind in its Economy's Sails
--- Confidence Abounds For Indonesia's Economy
--- Don’t Let Corruption Steal Focus From Reform
Role of the Press Key to Indonesia’s Progress
Jakarta Globe Editorial, 02 May 2010
Indonesia today enjoys one of the freest press climates in the region — at least as far as having the freedom to start up new publications. Shortly after the fall of Suharto’s authoritarian New Order government, the Ministry of Information, which was tasked with issuing press licenses and monitoring coverage of sensitive issues, was abolished. It was a startling reform, and the nation went from fearful of information to open and outspoken almost overnight.
As a result, there are more than 200 local publications and television stations in the country today, creating a vibrant media environment. Radio stations remain popular and a key source of news and information, while bloggers and the online media are mushrooming.
The press has also grown in influence. In the current era, both the government and opposition political parties understand and appreciate that they need to maintain open communication channels with the mainstream media.
The local media industry has come a long way since the repressive days of the New Order regime when newspapers and magazines could be closed by the government with little regard for due process. But as journalists in Indonesia celebrate World Press Freedom Day today, they should be mindful of continuing threats against them, in particular the threat of criminal defamation and various forms of intimidation designed to stifle their voices and the people’s right to know.
In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in the use of criminal defamation against journalists despite the enactment of the 1999 Law on the Press and the 2008 Law on Freedom of Information, which ostensibly protect journalists against charges of criminal defamation. Unfortunately, repressive criminal legislation remains on the books.
And while the media is now a full-fledged industry, it still struggles to attract the best and brightest Indonesians. This is primarily because of low salaries and the low prestige associated with journalism. The media must, however, acknowledge that professionalism among journalists also has to improve before salaries will rise and more bright young people will consider it a career option. There is a dire need to improve on-the-job training for young journalists as well as modernizing curriculums in journalism schools.
The future for Indonesia’s press is bright. As more people attain higher education, there will be a greater thirst for information, entertainment and enlightenment. Journalists must adapt to the changing landscape, and while they must continue to play a watchdog’s role to keep excessive government in check, the media must also play a nation-building role.
Given its ability to influence the populace and change mind-sets, the press has a unique opportunity to shape a new Indonesia. It must exercise its responsibility with wisdom and care. In many ways, the country’s future is in its hands.
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SBY Must Keep Ball Rolling in EconomyJakarta Globe Editorial, 19 April 2010:
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono put the economy back on the front burner in Bali on Monday and his timing could not have been better. Buffeted by a string of controversies, the president has at times taken his eye off the economic ball.
Tampaksiring Palace in verdant central Bali was the perfect setting for Yudhoyono to focus the government’s attention on the economy as senior officials, business leaders and provincial governors joined his cabinet for a three-day national retreat on economic strategy. To kick off the event, he outlined his 10 “Tampaksiring strategies” aimed at boosting economic growth.
These include encouraging significant growth in investment and exports, as well as developing human resources. The president was on the mark in noting that Indonesia must push per capita income beyond the $3,000 level if it is to climb above emerging economy status and also reduce poverty. By the end of his term in 2014, Yudhoyono wants to see a per capita income of $4,500.
With average income now at $2,600, the government, working with private business, must power the economy forward. The momentum is clearly with the country at this time and it would be a crime not to maximize this golden opportunity.
The president’s ambitious program also calls for a reduction in the official unemployment rate from about 8 percent to between 5 and 6 percent and lowering the poverty rate from the current 16 percent to below 10 percent.
Most of the targets and plans outlined in Bali are not new. The president has often cited these figures and has long pushed for more equitable growth. But by focusing on these issues squarely in such a public gathering, he is indicating the economy is now once again his central focus.
His personal push and focus is crucial if any of these targets are to be met. The country needs firm and dynamic economic leadership — and that begins with the president. He must take the lead in driving infrastructure development and promoting bureaucratic reforms. He must ensure that policies are well thought through and effectively implemented. If he succeeds, his legacy will be assured.
Although he has Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa at his side, it is imperative that the president is personally involved if business and the economy are to grow. The magic 7 percent GDP growth target he restated on Monday will only be achieved if Yudhoyono takes the lead.
The president highlighted a number of significant challenges that await, including the establishment of political stability, legal certainty and public order as well as the creation of the right policies and regulations. The latter is crucial for building investor and business confidence as wrong policies do far more damage than even corruption.
Indonesia is on a roll right now and we must not lose the momentum. The country may not get another chance.
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Indonesia Must Keep the Wind in its Economy's Sails – Jakarta Globe Editorial, 02 May 2010
Indonesia’s stock market is on a bull run. The rupiah is at its highest level since August 2008 and investors and local businesspeople are increasingly optimistic about the country’s economic outlook.
This virtuous cycle presents a golden opportunity for the government to push ahead aggressively with the reforms needed to take the economy forward. As Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati noted, 2010 must be the year of removing bottlenecks and roadblocks, and accelerating growth.
The finance minister said the challenge for the government would be to push through reforms, especially in some of the most important institutions such as the police, the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court. This is critical not just for investors and the business community, but also for the nation as a whole.
Removing bottlenecks and roadblocks in sectors such as logistics, licensing and power generation will be crucial for accelerating growth this year. The economy is expected to grow at 6 percent in 2010, but if these crucial reforms are pushed through, growth could be even higher.
Improvements in both market sentiment and business confidence also reflect the easing political tension in the country. Now that the Bank Century bailout investigation is hopefully behind us, it is an opportune moment to refocus on the economy and on creating jobs. We should all now concentrate on working to accelerate growth.
Improving the nation’s infrastructure — vital to support growth — and overhauling the legal system are serious challenges for the government. Both tasks will require careful planning, focus and execution. These tasks cannot be left in the hands of junior government servants, and it is heartening to hear the finance minister say she is back on the job.
If these challenges are overcome, Indonesia also will be better placed to capitalize on growth in other regional markets by participating fully in the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement. If its industries are competitive once again, Indonesia can become a major exporter of both natural resources and manufactured goods, and local industries will not need to fear competition from outside.
The wind is now clearly blowing in Indonesia’s sails. The momentum that is now with the country must be maximized and utilized. The confluence of factors that created this virtuous cycle took nearly a decade to come together. Indonesia now has a great opportunity to reap the dividends of the business-friendly government policies that have been put in place.
The investment community is ready to invest. The stock market is signaling that better times lie ahead as equity markets always move ahead of actual trends. Indonesia is in a sweet spot and it would be criminal if we let this opportunity slip from our grasp. Now is the time to make a real difference for a better tomorrow.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho – JAKARTA GLOBE, 03 MAY 2010
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Confidence Abounds For Indonesia's Economy
Jakarta Globe Editorial, 04 January 2010
Optimism is a powerful force and the positive tone coming from the office of the coordinating minister for the economy is welcome news for the business sector and the economy as a whole. Speaking at his first news conference of the year, Hatta Rajasa, chief economics minister, painted a bullish picture for the economy in 2010.
In particular, the country’s manufacturing sector looks set to bounce back from last year’s sluggish growth. Both Hatta and Industry Minister MS Hidayat expressed confidence the sector would grow by nearly 5 percent this year, compared to 1.6 percent in 2009. If indeed this is achieved, it would spell good news for the economy as a whole
The manufacturing sector is the backbone of the economy in terms of creating jobs and driving industrial output. The sector employed 14 million workers in 2009, an increase of 570,000 over 2008, but still far below the two million new jobs needed to absorb new entrants to the workforce.
This means the government will need to work much harder to ramp up growth. It will need to move speedily to resolve a host of issues that have held back manufacturing growth over the past few years, mainly a lack of infrastructure, a labor law that is prohibitive to employers and too much bureaucracy. These are significant challenges that need to be tackled in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
Renegotiating the implementation of the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement, which takes affect this year for certain manufacturing sectors, may buy the country some time but is not a long-term cure. Forming an interministerial department that would include private sector participation to accelerate competitiveness sounds like a good idea, but only if concrete measures are adopted and implemented.
Ultimately, the private sector needs well-thought-out and business-friendly policies coupled with modern infrastructure to be competitive both regionally and globally. Companies need to know where the government stands on crucial issues such as the corporate tax rate, electricity prices and increasing power supply to make informed decisions. There is no doubt the economic team under Hatta has been working hard to accomplish many of the programs outlined in the government’s 100-day program to accelerate economic growth. This is laudable, especially with Hatta claiming that more than 90 percent of the programs have been completed. But before we can congratulate ourselves, much more work lies ahead.
We need a concrete, workable and multi-dimensional program to take us to the next level of growth over the next five years. This is the real task for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his cabinet. Coordination among the various ministries will be crucial in achieving this, as will be the formulation of policies to increase competitiveness and raise living standards across the country.
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Don’t Let Corruption Steal Focus From Reform – Jakarta Globe Editorial
The arrest of a police officer and a lawyer involved in the investigation into rogue tax official Gayus Tambunan illustrates the ongoing need to stay vigilant against corruption. It is evident that graft is still very much in our midst and even among those very officials who we expect to be above it.
Gayus burst into headlines this month when Susno Duadji , a former National Police chief of detectives, alleged that the middle-ranking tax officer had paid off senior police officials to halt an investigation into huge sums of money found in his bank accounts. This case has become even more complex than it initially appeared, and has since resulted in a flurry of internal investigations within the tax office as well as law-enforcement bodies, including the police and the Attorney General’s Office.
Police said that more arrests will be made in relation to the initial investigation on Gayus, while the AGO said its internal investigator had found suspected procedural violations in the prosecution of the tax official, which ended in his acquittal by the Tangerang District Court this month.
It is a long, drawn-out battle and more arrests should come as no surprise.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made fighting graft a central platform of his administration, and the latest episode shows that although he remains committed to the cause, much has yet to be done.
Combating deep-rooted corruption is critical to economic growth and the long-term health of the nation, but other action is also needed. It is equally important that the government gets its policy framework right. Well thought out policies are even more critical to boosting business confidence and attracting much needed investment. Clean business practices and clear legal certainty would also be meaningless in the absence of the appropriate policies and environment to attract investment in the country.
Revising the negative list investment list that limits foreign investment, for example, should be a key priority. So should streamlining the tax regime so as to empower individuals and businesses. The government must ensure that the economy’s growth trajectory remains strong in the years to come. To ensure continuing economic growth, the government must not be distracted by politics. It should also quickly draw up a new industrial blueprint and solve the acute power shortages that have plagued the country over the past years.
Fighting corruption must go hand in hand with allowing businesses to grow uninhibited. We must lower taxes and streamline bureaucracy. If the government can succeed in accomplishing these critical goals, it will have laid the foundations for long-term sustainable economic growth. And this will, in turn, help raise living standards for all Indonesians.