Courtesy Reuters

Critical Countries: Indonesia: Testing Time for the "New Order"

Shortly before President Suharto was sworn in last March for a third five-year term as President of Indonesia, he delivered a major state of the nation speech to the People's Consultative Assembly.

The trials of his second term, Suharto said, "have made us more mature and more realistic. These experiences have done away with wishful thinking, especially the illusion that development is not a struggle . . . . We grow more conscious that in implementing development we are sometimes confronted with alternatives - which road should we take so we reach our goal safely. At times this choice isn't between the good and the bad, but only which is less bad than others."

Little more than a decade ago, Suharto and the Army took power and ended the "guided democracy" of the Sukarno era as well as Indonesia's flirtation with the Soviet Union and China. At the time, Suharto made a monumental strategic decision - gambling the development of the world's fifth most populous nation on a partnership with the free market economies of the United States, Japan and Europe. His New Order brought political stability and some economic progress. Indonesia took more effective control of its own oil and other natural resources. Soon soaring oil prices brought a wave of optimism that convinced many that Indonesia might be able to hoist itself dramatically and suddenly from poverty. But then came a worldwide recession. The engine of Suharto's development program, the state oil company Pertamina, derailed, wrecking the illusion that somehow oil would prove a magic balm for the nation's problems.

Today, as Suharto begins what will probably be his last term, his New Order is facing a testing time. Indonesia's problems of population, food and jobs are looming more starkly than ever; around them center many of the themes voiced by his detractors at home.

The years ahead are likely, as well, to plumb the West's commitment to official aid programs, and to test anew the commitment of private enterprise to a responsible

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.