Lost Opportunities
Category: Forbes Life By : Sekar Krisnauli Read : 118 Date : Friday, November 10, 2017 - 09:04:59




Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) spent a decade in the office, during a period of tremendous development in the country’s economy and political landscape. Attempting to put that era into perspective is the new book “The Loner: President Yudhoyono’s Decade of Trial and Indecision” by veteran New Zealand journalist John McBeth, who has decades of reporting experience in Asia.

The premise of John’s detailed account of SBY’s presidency is that SBY oversaw a huge amount of positive change during his administration, but that his timidity in leadership meant that he squandered many opportunities to score even greater achievements, especially in his second term. During SBY’s time Indonesia strengthened its peaceful democracy and recorded massive development—which peaked at 6.4% GDP growth in 2010—yet were counterbalanced by outcomes in his decision-making processes that were too lengthy. Such shortcomings were primarily caused by SBY’s indecision and obsession with consensus, John feels. John says SBY was more a “referee rather than a leader.” SBY kept this cautious approach, despite regularly enjoying huge popular support, as per numerous polls, which he could have allowed him to take faster and bolder actions.

Furthermore, SBY not only could have done more, John premises that SBY also failed to address many issues early on that have now grown to become more serious issues such as religious intolerance, economic stagnation and harmful nationalist tendencies. Many of these issues can trace their roots to his administration, when they could have more easily controlled and contained. 

As an example, the seeds of religious intolerance and radicalism built up early in the SBY presidency, erupting into the terrorist attacks in 2006 and 2009 that targeted Westerners. Though the administration took steps to physically take out terrorists and secure targeted areas, SBY was not tough enough to address the root of the problem, such as promoting deradicalization programs. Thus the current rise in intolerance and discrimination can indirectly be traced back to SBY’s leniency that provided fertile land for such ideologies to grow.

The book further exposes the reality that corruption had grown worse in all levels of government, despite SBY providing more leeway for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to attack endemic corruption. During the course of his presidency, John notes how 2,470 people were convicted of corruption, 1,260 of whom were either civil servants or officials at state-owned companies. One of the reasons why corruption had become some pervasive is because of an ineffective decentralization policy and a failure to develop a stronger sense public duty in the bureaucracy. 

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