Saturday, August 18, 2007

2007 State of the Nation Address

I thought I was listening to SBY's speech on the Independence Day. As it turned out, I was dreaming. Here is what I heard in the dream:

My fellow countrymen,

Congratulations to all of us. Today we are celebrating the sixty second anniversary of our beloved country.

I’m standing here before you with good news. I will not bore you with statistics. This is no place for gloom nor is it for blame game. My staff – I mean my vice president and cabinet members – will tell you anything with numbers later. Because I will only talk about three issues and I do not want to distract you with allusion to figures.

First, politics. I know full well that many of you are still anxious about our relationship with Singapore – sand, telecommunication, extradition, military training, transshipment, et cetera. Don’t you worry, my fellow countrymen. Singapore is no threat to us. That little city state is not to be taken too seriously. Yes, they have technology and money. But Karimun, Bintan, and Batam are our properties. We’ll do business with them, and we’ll do it right. Lee Kuan Yew thinks he knows Indonesia. Well, I’ll show him what the real Indonesia is.

Indonesia is the rising superpower. This great nation has taught the world how to run a democratic election. It is now in the center stage of world democracy. So let’s seize the moment. There are still loopholes in our local election, in our bureaucracy, in our parliamentary system, and in our legal system. But we’re making progress.

Some of you worry that zero tolerance to corruption means zero growth. That is a valid concern. Just like what we do to pollution, let’s minimize corruption, if we cannot eliminate it altogether now. If this sounds too shocking to you, let me put it in other words. That is, we’ll fight against corruption all out, but we can only do it gradually while at the same time fixing our legal framework. That way, we can respect the presumption of innocence. That way, we don’t need to waste time fighting over baseless allegation.

That includes me. Yes, I made mistakes. I should’ve not entertained people who just wanted to attack me ad hominem. I promise you, no more overreaction on my side. But I welcome anything constructive rather than pure nuisance. Great leaders will always deal with noises, be it external or internal. It is how they manage them that differs them from no-so-great leaders. I want to be one of the former.

Second, on the economy. We have recovered from crisis. We sure don’t want to fall into another one. Our fundamentals are good and reserves are sufficient. That is of course no reason to go imprudent. Meaning, we have to weight benefits and costs very carefully. We want lively real sector; but we don’t want too high an inflation. We want high growth; yet we don’t want poverty. We want clean environment; but we also want affordable energy. What I’m trying to say, my fellow countrymen, is that tradeoffs are everywhere. I want you all to understand this. That patience is a virtue. That short-run pain might be required for a long-run gain. That friction might occur while waiting for the next stable equilibrium. That inefficiency will subside, and efficiency will take over. And that you can’t have everything at the same time, pronto.

We are a key player in the world economy. While the Doha Development Agenda is in limbo, we believe that non-discriminatory principle is the best. So, we are still in support for the WTO and hope it will materialize someday not too far from now. We, together with countries we lead in G-33 will demand United States to stop fooling around with their agriculture. We will also continue our unilateral liberalization. Because waiting is losing. We talk with other countries but are careful with bilateral agreements. We don’t want too many FTAs as they will lead to great confusion, complexity, and conflict. And they distort our resources away from multilateral improvement.

Finally, social matters. We are both healthier and more educated now. However, modern life is followed by modern disease and epidemic. We should improve our education system as well as our health support system. We have to work hand-in-hand with other countries to combat HIV, avian flu, and God knows what comes next. Our school enrollment rates have never been better. But quantity means not much. We have to keep improving the quality of education. We will start by increasing the salary of teachers in primary and secondary schools -- and providing the education gratis. Where does the money come from, you ask me. From removing the subsidy enjoyed by universities. Basic education is public good. University education is not.

Now that I’m talking about subsidy, let me go on. We’ll cut completely the subsidy on fuel, kerosene, and gas. That way, alternative energy can become more competitive and the pressure to environment is reduced. (I can add employment issue here, but I’ll save that). Yes, there will be a short term dislocation. But we will dampen the impact by conditional cash transfer combined with cash-for-work programs. We only need to make sure that everyone understands that such programs are temporary. Once the coast is clear, everyone has to be on his own. We don’t want another time bomb.

That’s it, my fellow countrymen. Let’s get back to work.



dHani said...

well i sure am will elect you as a president ... but will you wear batik? ;)

Aco said...

Oh, definitely, dhan. I love Batik. Especially those sold at Pasar Klewer, not the mooshy-mooshy ones made by Prajudi -- what's his name?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, I may elect Aco as the president (who may pursue intention of Jusuf Kalla who probably could not be elected in the next round of 2009). But, as a pure economist, I hope Aco would not live in the realm of assumptions as economists do. Since the president should take affirmative actions not assumptions and not an economist student who walk with his/her professor and see a big money on the sidewalk.

Aco said...

Thanks, Pak. I'm still studying that thing called affirmation.

Arya Gaduh said...

Are you being gender insensitive here? How do you know anonymous is a Pak? ;-)

Aco said...

Oops. You got me, Arya -- guilty as charged. Sorry, ladies.

Anonymous said...

Aco is right Arya, I am Pak not Bu...By the way, I haven't found any new interesting posting in this fascinating blog. Dr. Patunru, are you busy now?

Aco said...

Thanks for visiting, Pak. Sorry, have been busy lately, but will resume posting by the weekend.