Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Welcome guests

If there are welcome guests after the nation has celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan and the New Year, they must be coming from neighboring Singapore, led by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, and accompanied by almost one hundred businessmen. The Prime Minister and his entourage arrived here on Jan. 13, 2000.

The businessmen have come here to help revitalize the economy through new investments, economic cooperation or financial aid packages. It seems that Gus Dur's magic has worked in convincing foreign interests that Indonesia is safe. After all, this country is as vast as the continent of Europe, from London to Moscow, and what happens in its small remote corners like Aceh, Maluku or Papua does not reflect the general condition, as some press reports may suggest.

The general hope among the common people, many among them are still looking for better employment opportunities, is that with each new foreign investment, the number of people in employment should increase. Whether Goh Chok Tong's mission can help to improve the economy in the immediate future is doubtful. But it dramatizes the fact that international confidence in Indonesian economic planners has returned and Indonesian entrepreneurs should respond positively by indulging themselves less in unlawful and immoral practices.

Perhaps the stability of the Indonesian currency at about Rp 7,000 per dollar has contributed to the general optimism among prospective investors. Prices and supplies of basic commodities withstood the New Year/Idul Fitri storms, which is to the credit of the newly elected administration.

It has been a daring move, nevertheless, by the government to propose a salary hike for civil servants and the military and police when the social fabric is just recovering and "provocateurs" can show up anytime, anywhere and on the basis of just about anything.

The Singaporeans probably know too well that Indonesia's economic recovery is in trustworthy hands. Hopefully, other missions, if necessary from outer space, will also come to demonstrate support and confidence, with yet greater commitment to help cure not only Indonesia's financial and material illnesses but, and probably more importantly, the cure must also be directed at the moral decadence of the people.