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PacNet #16 – Indonesia: Not There Yet, But Getting There

It is easy not to envy the position Indonesia is in these days.


The economic crises hit many Asian countries, but Indonesia is arguably the only one that has to contend with political, economic, security, social, and ethnic problems, all simultaneously. The four presidents who have ruled the country (Soekarno, Soeharto, B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid) would concur that Indonesia is a difficult country to govern under any circumstances. It is, after all, a developing country of 200 million people with 300 ethnic groups scattered over thousands of islands, with a history punctured by instability and turbulence, and a relatively young and restless nationalism. Such is the enormity of its challenges that Thomas Friedman has called Indonesia (along with Russia) a "messy state… too big to fail, too messy to work."