Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Land of Opportunities?

The Land of Opportunities?

Some of my Indonesian friends are hoping that when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (popularly known by his initials, "SBY") becomes th next president, he'll deal with the terrorists more "decisively" (read ruthlessly). There is bitter anger against this bigoted group of people whose misguided actions have only hurt ordinary Indonesians going about their daily lives.

My friend Ibu Titi doesn't share the same opinion though. She is hoping that Ibu Megawati would win because she does not believe in having ex-military men like SBY running the country. Enough of the military's ruthless ways after almost three decades of General Suharto's rule, she said.

With SBY likely to become the next President of Indonesia, it is interesting to see what kind of changes he would bring to the country. Indonesia is not an easy country to run--the sheer diversity and size of the country boggles the mind. Things like corruption and poverty cannot be wiped out overnight. Jobs need to be created. To do that you need foreign investments; and that can only happen if there's peace and stability.

The worst time for Indonesia in recent times was the Asian Financial Crisis culminating in the riots of May 1998. During that time it felt like all business came to standstill. It took a while before things started moving again. But move it did. Kota--the Chinatown of Jakarta--is a bustling place these days with health spas, supermarkets and restaurants sprouting up every other month. Trendy yuppie bars and up-market designer malls are also crowded with people on weekends.

Sometimes I feel that there's nothing stopping Indonesia from achieving prosperity as long as the leaders can achieve the basic things--namely peace and stability. The economy will inevitability grow because people are keen to invest in the country. The size of the market and the availability of cheap labour are great pull factors.

An Indonesian Chinese friend of mine who had his entire primary and tertiary education in Singapore (common among many of the wealthy Chinese here) chose to come back to his homeland to make a living. I asked him why.

"I see a lot of opportunities here."

I couldn't agree more.

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