Press freedom is manacled in Thailand and Brunei, through their lese-majeste laws, in Malaysia and Singapore through their debilitating laws against defamation, and even in the Philippines, where journalists are conveniently gunned down when their inconveniently revealing reports hurt certain powers that be. In contrast, the Indonesian press on the whole is a bit freewheeling but that is better than not being free. In the economic sphere, Indonesia faltered for a while in the beginning, but the president made adjustments in the lineup of his economic team, which finally began to move effectively. It is therefore no coincidence that our GDP growth has since been dynamic. It was 5.6 percent in 2005 and 2006 — unprecedented since the Asian financial crisis. Then last year the economy achieved a growth of 6.5 percent — which I think was what earned Indonesia an honored place at the G-20 summit. Evidently the administration’s economic policy, which it describes as pro-business, pro-poor and pro-job creation, has delivered the goods. And it has greatly helped that the campaign against corruption has been largely successful. Some NGOs are not fully satisfied but no other Asian country can match Indonesia’s anti-corruption record in recent years. Now comes the global economic and financial crisis that has thrown a monkey wrench at every economy in the world. Some pundits call it an “economic tsunami,” but the real tsunami is not the host of problems that all economies, developed and developing, must grapple with. It is the tidal wave of pessimism that has engulfed all societies, economies and international organizations, with the IMF orchestrating the dark mood with its prediction of a grueling 1.3 percent contraction of the global economy. But Indonesia is not buying into that drama of gloom and doom. On the basis of the momentum that it gained in previous years, the administration in the middle of 2008 was dreaming of a whopping 6.7 percent growth for 2009. But in the face of the global crisis, it had to scale down its ambitions to 4.5 percent. It should not be difficult to attain 4 percent — a contraction, certainly, but a great performance topped only by China and India and rivaled only by the Philippines, with its enormous overseas remittances. It is no surprise therefore that in the latest consumer confidence survey by the Nielsen Company, Indonesia came out as the world’s most confident country in the face of the global crisis, with a solid, positive 104 index points, and with a high percentage of Indonesians intending to spend money on durable commodities like new technology products. With such confidence, with a huge local market that has had its purchasing power boosted by the government’s economic stimulus package, it would take a truckload of bad luck for the Indonesian economy to fail. The international press may wish to label that confidence a part of the “Indonesian miracle.” But it isn’t. It is clearly a function of good leadership in a system that works. And it works simply because, in spite of our imperfections and occasional setbacks, we have gotten our politics and our economics right.
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