|Indonesia: Optimism, Edged With Uncertainty, in 2014|
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Indonesia faced a string of extraordinary speed bumps in its road through 2013; from the floods that paralyzed downtown Jakarta at the beginning of the year, to the string of increasingly high-profile and salacious corruption revelations.
There was also the series of debilitating natural disasters that struck severalparts of the country throughout the year, and the diplomatic firestorm that flared up in the wake of revelations that Australia had listened in on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone calls.
There was also the slow-motion death spiral of the rupiah, one of the worst-performing currencies in the world last year, and the general slowdown in emerging markets that weighed on the economy.
Despite the hardships, 2013 also left a few silver linings in its wake. Last year, the stagnant world of Indonesian politics got a long-awaited breath of fresh air in the form of Joko Widodo and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, inaugurated in late 2012 as the governor and deputy governor of Jakarta.
After more than a year in office, the pair is still shaking up the musty bureaucracy, treading on a lot of toes in the process and proving that elected officials who serve the public — a novel concept here — really do exist.
Also leading by example were Surabaya’s mayor, Tri Rismaharini, and Finance Minister Charib Basri, who did a commendable job of guiding Indonesia through the economic hurdles of 2013.
As we usher in the new year, let’s take a look at what we can look forward to over the next 12 months.
Documentary film director Sakti Parantean says he believes the elections — legislative in April and presidential in July — will be the defining points of the year, and indeed of the next five years in Indonesia.
“2014 can be a turning point for Indonesia; the country can either rise or fall depending on the results of the elections,” he tells the Jakarta Globe.
“I hope this year we’ll meet a great nationalistic leader. Someone with a strong sense of nationalism can easily engage others in working together to build a better country.” He cites Joko and Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil as prime examples of such leaders.
Sakti also says Indonesians need to look back at history to understand that leaders who take office with their own interests in mind are never a good choice.
Ultimately, he says, the key to choosing a better leader is in the people’s hands.
Alanda Kariza, 22, founder of the Indonesian Youth Conference, says she hopes to see a clean and fair election in 2014.
As an active participant in several youth organizations, Alanda emphasizes the importance of the younger generation’s role in the polls.
Young candidates should get a chance to prove themselves in contributing to the development of this country, Alanda says, adding that young candidates who win seats in the House of Representatives can become a voice of inspiration to the wider Indonesian youth.
“Personally, I want a young-spirited figure to get in the system, to represent our voice in the House,” she says.
Naufal Filendi, a 25-year-old paralegal, echoes the sentiment.
“I think that everybody wants a better president, a great leader. That is why Indonesian people should research the presidential and legislative candidates. Don’t be fooled just by the campaign promises the candidates make,” Naufal says.
“People should actively contribute if they wish to have a better future.”
He also addresses the lack of interest in reading among Indonesians, saying Indonesians should be encouraged to build solid reading habits.
“I hope that in 2014, Indonesia becomes more literate; we need to read more and expose ourselves to different literary materials. By reading more, people will become more critical, which helps us focus on more important issues and push the superficial ones aside,” Naufal says.
With regard to the economy in 2014, analysts have drawn more pessimistic projections, citing a range of factors.
“For 2014, we’re more cautious, especially with the upcoming elections,” says Sofyan Wanandi, the chairman of the Indonesia Employers Association (Apindo).
“Some companies are postponing plans for expansion and are more focused on managing their current assets.”
For Suryo Bambang Sulisto, chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), a lack of support from the government will be the biggest blow to businesses.
“From what we’ve seen in the macroeconomic policies for 2014, the government is really not creating a supportive environment for businesses. In fact, it’s almost like the government is giving businesses the cold shoulder,” he says.
“While I understand that of all monetary policies are based on worries over what’s happening in the US, this will also suspend growth in the real sector. We’re worried that when the economic growth is stunted, unemployment will follow. Every year there are around 2.5 million people looking for new jobs. To support that, our economic growth needs to be at least 7 percent a year.”
Suryo says businesses need to be cautious entering the new year.
“We should watch for inflation and our current-account deficit, but not at the cost of the real sector,” he says.
“Our hope is to boost exports. That’s our main goal.”
Taufiq Hanafi, an English lecturer at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, says he believes that 2013 has been very generous, and that it is now time to embrace what 2014 has in store for the country.
“As we all probably know, big events are due to take place very soon,” he says.
“On the first of January, a new scheme of health care under the supervision of the BPJS [Social Security Organizing Body] will start to operate. Obviously, the government needs to know how to kick off the year to a good start.”
Taufiq says the ambitious health coverage scheme, targeted to cover all Indonesians by 2019, is more than strategic. The scheme will allow citizens nationwide to benefit from a system in which access to health care is no longer the domain of a select few.
The new scheme will also educate people on the importance of health insurance, while encouraging them to care for each other. “I am definitely for it,” he says.
Taufiq says he also feels positive about the elections.
“Some may view the elections as ineffective and overrated, but enough with that negative mind-set,” he says.
“The elections determine the sovereignty of the people to make the right decisions for their own future and for the nation’s. The wiser the decision, the better the future that the people and generations to come will have.”
The elections will provide a powerful platform for the people to raise their voices and be heard. They get to decide which competent individuals are trustworthy enough to be their political representatives, to actually serve the people and not the other way around, Taufiq says.
They will also guarantee equal opportunity for education, freedom of speech, access to a free press, and access to the right to protest.
“[The election process] may seem flawed, but I don’t know of any other system better than this,” Taufiq says.
“The good intentions of this event, in my opinion, can generate more than enough energy to start nourishing hopes for a better year. I am with Lord Tennyson in believing that ‘Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…’”
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