Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Decreasing in Oil Subsidies : Is this the best option we have?

Roughly two weeks ago I had an English presentation in class, the presentation to which my group decided to bring the topic of ‘The Government’s Policy to Decrease Oil Subsidies’.

After a prolonged time of the presentation and I had returned to my seat, one friend asked our group a question personally,

“Instead of the decreasing in oil subsidies, why doesn’t the government choose other options, such as the decreasing in banking sector subsidies?”

Maybe my writing here is the answer to people who propose identical questions as hers.

Here in Indonesia, we have numerous options, but few are able to be implemented. Well, you might say “Mr. Yudhoyono, just go get those corruptors and bring back our money!” or “Recapture those money from the banker which we gave them as a bailout during the financial crisis!” (renowned in Indonesia as BLBI).

But, can we really do that? With the poor bureaucracy and law system that we have right now, such options are hard –or even impossible- to be put into action. In United States, Barack Obama campaigns with the ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. And yes he can, and I bet that he will. On the contrary, do Indonesian politicians have the competence as Obama has? No they don’t. They promised various things during the campaigns, but soon after they’d faced with Indonesia’s difficulties, they found out the truth; in this country, the situation is not as easy as it seems.

In fact, instead of the decreasing in oil subsidies, I would rather choose to arrest Suharto’s cronies and recover the money that he took from our country. Do you know that the corruption watchdog Transparency International has estimated that Gen. Suharto embezzled up to $35 billion while president of Indonesia, a figure that is in the same league as the entrepreneurial fortunes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett!* (taken from the article The Case of Unpaid Parking Ticket; why some people cheat and others don’t – Tim Harford)

But is that possible? Even if you have the authority, it needs massive guts to do the action. Powered with Suharto’s dominance in his 32 years regime, it is publicly known that most of the Suharto’s families and his cronies are regarded ‘untouchable’.

Indonesian leaders should draw inspiration from current Chile’s president who lost her father to the violent regime of Augusto Pinochet; Michele Bachelet. This 56 year-old woman is ranked 27th in 2007 Forbes’ most powerful women in the world and listed as Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2008, inspiring many women as New York’s Senator Hillary Clinton and Spain’s 37 year-old Defense Minister Carme Chacon. As a woman, what she did is absolutely remarkable and even outdid numerous men leaders. By the time she elected as president, she started to bring many Pinochet’s cronies to trial, fearlessly arrested them and leaves Chile uncontaminated from Augusto Pinochet’s regime. In Indonesia, I see background resemblance between Michele Bachelet and Megawati Soekarnoputri because both lost her father to dictators. Unfortunately, I don’t see the same courage, cleverness, and determination. If Bachelet were Indonesian and born as ‘Michele Soekarnoputri’, well, maybe Suharto would not have died so peacefully back then.

Exactly, that is the type of leader that Indonesia need. We need a fearless, accountable, and idealist-type leader, on whom Indonesians are able to depend. We need the leader who can make difference by his or her willingness to act, not to speak, so that he or she has the guts to put such breakthrough options into actions, and the bravery to deal with all the consequences.

Today, the decreasing in oil subsidies is probably not the best option, in my opinion; it merely is the most realistic option we have. People may offer other options, but can those options be put into actions? Or can someone put those options into actions? Yes, trust me, I do know that we have loads of options besides the decreasing in oil subsidies, but I really believe that those options are really hard to be implemented. With Indonesia’s situation right now, we need fearless people as Michele Bachelet, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Evo Morales, or Hugo Chavez to put those alternatives into actions successfully.

So, does the government choose the right path by making this decision? Decisions and options, are all about trade-offs. Some agree, and others differ.

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