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There are reasons for thinking that this is at last Indonesia's moment on the world stage. Having successfully negotiated its difficult transition to democracy after 1998, Indonesia has held three popular elections with a low level of violence by the standards of southern Asia. Recently its economic growth rate has been high (above 6 per cent a year) and rising, where China's has been dropping and the developed world has been in crisis. Indonesia's admission in 2009 to the G20 club of the world's most influential states seemed to confirm a status implied by its size, as the world's fourth-largest country by population, and the largest with a Muslim majority. Some international pundits have been declaring that Indonesia is the new star to watch, and that its long-awaited moment in the sun may at last have arrived.Those who know Indonesia well, like the experts writing in this book, are less easy to convince. In this volume they weigh the economic evidence (Ross Garnaut and M. Chatib Basri); the political equation between democracy and the massive obstacles to progress in corruption, inefficiency and legal inadequacies (Rizal Sukma and Donald K. Emmerson); and Indonesia's unrealized potential as a leader in matters environmental (Frank Jotzo) and Islamic (Martin van Bruinessen). The volume is rounded out by Scott Guggenheim's analysis of the potential for better performance in education, and by the longer-term considerations of Anthony Reid and R.E. Elson. Overall, the conclusion is one of cautious optimism, well aware of past disappointments."Perhaps, as the contributors to this eminently readable and thought-provoking volume suggest, Indonesia is finally emerging as the globally significant nation-state that it surely is. A timely and important publication that deserves to be widely read."–Hal Hill, H.W. Arndt Professor of Southeast Asian Economies, The Australian National University
The tsunami that struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 evoked international sympathy on a scale beyond any previous natural disaster. The unprecedented media coverage and humanitarian response was prompted not only by dramatic images relayed from hand-held cameras and phones, but by the inclusion of “First World” victims in an essentially “Third World” catastrophe. Among the areas hit by the tsunami were popular beach resorts in southern Thailand and Sri Lanka; Europeans, Americans and Australians were among the Indonesians, Indians, Thais and Sri Lankans who perished in huge numbers. The international relief effort broke all records both in scale and diversity, with seven billion U.S. dollars donated from all over the world through public and private agencies for Sumatra alone.
The disbursement of those funds and the rebuilding of housing, infrastructure and economy posed major national and international challenges. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) welcomed an unprecedented international relief effort which brought thousands of government and private aid workers to Aceh, transforming it from isolated backwater to international hub. After some initial uncertainty, he sidestepped the Indonesian bureaucracy and took the unprecedented step of establishing the novel Agency for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias (known by its Indonesian initials, BRR). The head of BRR, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, had complete autonomy to act, as a minister responsible directly to the president.
However, this was not simply a reconstruction effort. Aceh at that time was a war zone; Indonesia's military was engaged in a major operation to crush a separatist rebellion that had been simmering since 1976. Curiously, two other hotbeds of separatism and repression, southern Thailand and Sri Lanka, were also severely affected by the 2004 tsunami, but without any peace dividend. In Aceh, however, the scale of the disaster, in conjunction with some other factors detailed in this book, became part of the remarkable peace of 2005.
The tsunami that struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 evoked international sympathy on a scale beyond any previous natural disaster. The international relief effort broke all records both in scale and diversity, with seven billion U.S. dollars donated from all over the world through public and private agencies for Sumatra alone. Simply as a reconstruction effort, therefore, the disbursement of those funds and the rebuilding of housing, infrastructure, and economy posed major national and international challenges. However this was not simply a reconstruction effort. Aceh at that time was a war zone, with Indonesia’s military engaged in a major operation to crush a separatist rebellion that had been simmering since 1976. Even though the funds had been donated for tsunami relief, any real reconstruction of Aceh had to consider the impact of the conflict on the well-being of the population, as well as governance and administrative capacities. This volumes serves the purpose not only of discussing some of the lessons of the Aceh reconstruction and peace processes, but also of maintaining critical links between Aceh and the international community after the initial tranches of aid expire.