Tue, 13 Jun 2000

Megawati vows significant improvements for next year

JAKARTA (JP): Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri asked on Monday the public to be patient, saying it would take time to solve the complex problems inherited from the past regime.

The Vice President, however, expressed her confidence that the Cabinet would be able rebuild the country's economy and that the people would see significant improvements in their life in the next year.

"This is not a statement of self-defense. I just want to explain that the current government is facing a huge predicament left over by the former government," Megawati said in a meeting with members of the Economic Association of Indonesia and India (EAII) at the Merdeka Selatan Palace, in Central Jakarta.

Accompanied by Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Muthu Venkatraman, the association presented 10 ambulances and a cheque for Rp 100 million (US$ 11,400) to the government to be used for humanitarian operations in the country's troubled provinces of Maluku and North Maluku.

Citing complaints she had received from various sources, Megawati said many people doubted whether the Cabinet was on the right track in managing the country's economy.

She acknowledged that the government had not achieved significant economic improvements, but argued that the Cabinet was continuously assessing the situation and making adjustments to the economy.

"We will do our best, but Insya Allah (God willing), next year everything will be seen clearer," the Vice President said.

Instead of responding to criticisms that she had been reluctant to visit the earthquake-struck province of Bengkulu, she seemed to deflect complaints onto President Abdurrahman Wahid and his frequent overseas trips.

Megawati, who plans to visit Bengkulu on Thursday, said she had visited many troubled regencies, while the President had visited many foreign countries.

"I once made a joke to the President, saying that if the President could visit 12 countries simultaneously, the Vice President's duty is just to visit the regencies," she said.

Since their elections to their respective positions in October, the President has visited at least 30 countries. He is currently on a 14-day trip to eight countries.

Megawati has visited three countries. Her visit to Hong Kong at the end of the year sparked controversy from her critics, who said it was more for leisure than for the country's interests.

She performed a Haj pilgrimage to Mecca in March and has been to Singapore at least once.

She is scheduled to make a three day-visit to Singapore on June 25. It is not clear whether it is for private reasons or as part of an official tour.

"It's as if the Vice President's side job is to visit regions hit by natural disasters," Megawati joked.

Megawati also told the Indian community that contrary to their initial requests, she might send the ambulances to needy provinces places other than Maluku and North Maluku, like Bengkulu and North Sulawesi. (prb)