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Quick introduction to Indonesia

17 December 2011

In the wake of President Obama’s November visit to Indonesia and this week’s announcement that Indonesia’s credit rating has been raised, it may be that more foreigners are looking for a quick summary about the world’s third-largest democracy. Um, yes — that is Indonesia!

I came across a good one today, in convenient PDF format, from The Wilson Quarterly (Winter 2011 issue). Download it (free) here. It’s very readable and clear, and it provides a good overview of recent history (since World War II) to explain how Indonesia came to be a stable post-colonial country.

I must agree with this statement on the final page of that article:

Indonesia boasts one of the fastest-growing stock markets in Asia and economic growth averaging around six percent; it breezed through the recent global downturn virtually untouched. But its widespread poverty and low rate of job creation are still problematic, and the corruption of the judicial system, combined with the heavy hand of bureaucracy, still deters foreign investment.

Most of the people I have met here are smart and hardworking. Much of the population around Java is appallingly under-employed. There is tremendous potential. Although convoluted government red tape and rampant graft make Indonesia a challenge for foreign investors, a new generation should be taking the political reins soon — if not in the next national election, then in the one after that. And then, maybe there will be some progress toward improving the business environment here.

See also my post about three good books (in English) about the recent history of Indonesia.

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