Jokowi’s First-Year Report Card

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first state visit to the United States this week coincided almost exactly with his first anniversary in office. Back home, a recent poll by Indonesia’s most respected survey company provides a useful summary of how Indonesians rate the performance of their new president. Their assessment is decidedly mixed.

The good news for Jokowi is that 71 percent of respondents are generally satisfied with the country’s security situation and 56 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. As important, over the past four months, the number of respondents satisfied with Jokowi’s performance has sharply increased and now outnumbers those dissatisfied (51.7 percent to 45.5 percent). He gets high marks for delivering better public services—health, education, and roads —of which he can be justifiably proud (see figure 1). Enrollment in his flagship national health insurance program surged to include 133 million participants by the end of 2014. Similarly, the government significantly expanded the smart card program that gives poor children access to education and the family welfare card program that supports poor families. His favorable rating for road building reflects a recent—albeit delayed—acceleration in infrastructure spending by the government with the promise of more to come.


But that’s where the good news ends. Like U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—two other democratic leaders who rose to power as political outsiders—Jokowi took office bearing the burden of unrealistically high expectations. It was only a question of time before his halo slipped. Jokowi—who had campaigned on a strong anticorruption platform—quickly found himself on the losing end of a dogged battle to protect Indonesia’s anticorruption agency from being eviscerated by its enemies within the police and parliament, both perennially ranked among the country’s most corrupt institutions. This partly explains why poll respondents are largely split on whether Jokowi is doing a good job combating corruption (47 percent think he is, 43 percent think he isn’t), but the majority (55 percent) believes that corruption is worse today than it was a year ago

More damaging to Jokowi has been Indonesia’s deteriorating economy. Poll respondents’ views on economic performance strongly correlate with the “misery index,” the sum of inflation and unemployment (see figure 2).2 In Jokowi’s one year as president, inflation climbed in large part because of higher food prices (especially rice), and growth slowed due to declining competitiveness, difficult global conditions, and China’s deceleration, resulting in large layoffs of Indonesian factory workers. Food price increases—driven by bottlenecks in agriculture and below-average rainfall as a result of El Niño—affected the poor disproportionately, and Indonesia’s poverty head count climbed over the past year from 28.3 million to 28.6 million (although, as a share of the total population, the poverty rate fell marginally). No wonder most poll respondents rate the Jokowi administration poorly in terms of battling unemployment, reducing poverty, and keeping the prices of basic goods affordable (see figure 3).

To turn things around, Jokowi reshuffled his cabinet this August and brought in a new economic team that within the short space of six weeks announced five reform packages designed to improve competitiveness, revive investment, and arrest the growth

slowdown. On the positive side, the reforms are expected to streamline import, export, and investment licensing; introduce a new system for fixing minimum wages; ensure quicker permits for land use; and improve access to finance for small enterprises and individuals. On the negative side, however, they effectively increase energy subsidies to industry at a time when such subsidies already drain budgetary resources away from higher priority infrastructure and social expenditures. They also leave untouched restrictive labor market regulations and a range of trade barriers that curb imports and exports, distort production incentives, and inhibit the expansion of labor-intensive manufacturing.

Finally, the Jokowi administration has fallen woefully short in its response to three rule-of-law-related challenges this past year.

The first challenge has been the administration’s inability to prevent private companies from illegally setting forest fires over large tracts in Sumatra and Kalimantan as a way to clear forest land on the cheap. Forest fires are a perennial problem in Indonesia, but this year they have been particularly widespread, and have led to a toxic haze of smoke that blankets many cities in Indonesia as well as neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. Some Indonesian towns have registered a pollution index seven times the level considered hazardous to public health. Indeed, the World Resources Institute estimates that emissions from Indonesia’s forest fires now exceed the daily fossil fuel emissions from the entire United States. To Jokowi’s credit, he was the first Indonesian president ever to visit the site of these forest fires, and he even cut short his visit to the United States in order to attend to the emergency. His government has deployed over 25,000 uniformed personnel to fight the fires, has opened investigations against suspected companies, and has accepted help from neighboring countries. These efforts are welcome, but rather than fight the fires after they have started, the Indonesian government must work to ensure they don’t get started in the first place.

The second challenge has been the administration’s disappointing inability—or perhaps unwillingness—to uphold religious freedom as guaranteed in the constitution. In several parts of the country, local governments have declared Christian churches illegal and razed them to the ground. Minority Muslim communities (Shia and Ahmadiyah) have been denounced as heretic and blasphemous by religious leaders of the Sunni majority. Thousands have been turned out from their villages and have been living in shelters for prolonged periods. Jokowi’s tolerance of intolerance is eroding the country’s reputation for pluralism and secularism. Rather than limit himself to calling for calm as he did following a recent incident when a church was razed to the ground in the fractious province of Aceh, he should vow to protect religious minorities and see they are given permits to build their places of worship peacefully and without hindrance.

The third challenge has been Jokowi’s uncompromising stance on the execution of drug smugglers, some of whom were foreigners. Although this show of steely resolve has been welcomed by many Indonesians, it has earned him the strong disapproval of the international community and ultimately has done little to make people at home feel safer. In fact, according to the poll results, respondents clearly believe that law enforcement is worse today than it was a year ago. Jokowi’s administration should focus on addressing the root causes of crime and insecurity rather than sticking to symbolic punitive measures that are ultimately of little social value.

Although Jokowi’s first year as president was rocky—an outsider’s initiation into the rough and tumble world of Jakarta politics—he appears to be gradually gaining the upper hand. He has broadened his political coalition, which now has a small parliamentary advantage over the main opposition coalition (256 seats to 243), although he still does not command a majority of the seats. His revamped economic team appears to be competent and inclined toward market-friendly reforms supportive of investment and growth, and there is a possibility that a further reshuffle soon could introduce more reformist elements into his administration. A recent decline in inflation and pick-up in infrastructure spending portend a higher economic growth rate next year and a lower misery index, both of which should improve his standing in the polls. His announcement at this week’s meeting with President Obama that Indonesia intends to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will significantly boost positive investor sentiment toward Indonesia.  Most importantly, his unimpeachable integrity, his continued popularity across the nation, his common touch, and his ability to reach across party lines are political assets that set him apart from any other political figure in Indonesia, including the leader of the opposition, Prabowo Subianto, and Jokowi’s political mentor, ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

With such formidable political assets, one can only expect Jokowi’s second year in office will be better than his first.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first state visit to the United States this week coincided almost exactly with his first anniversary in office. Back home, a recent poll by Indonesia’s most respected survey company provides a useful summary of how Indonesians rate the performance of their new president.1 Their assessment is decidedly mixed.

The good news for Jokowi is that 71 percent of respondents are generally satisfied with the country’s security situation and 56 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. As important, over the past four months, the number of respondents satisfied with Jokowi’s performance has sharply increased and now outnumbers those dissatisfied (51.7 percent to 45.5 percent). He gets high marks for delivering better public services—health, education, and roads —of which he can be justifiably proud (see figure 1). Enrollment in his flagship national health insurance program surged to include 133 million participants by the end of 2014. Similarly, the government significantly expanded the smart card program that gives poor children access to education and the family welfare card program that supports poor families. His favorable rating for road building reflects a recent—albeit delayed—acceleration in infrastructure spending by the government with the promise of more to come.

Read more at: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/10/27/jokowi-s-first-year-report-card/ikfl

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first state visit to the United States this week coincided almost exactly with his first anniversary in office. Back home, a recent poll by Indonesia’s most respected survey company provides a useful summary of how Indonesians rate the performance of their new president.1 Their assessment is decidedly mixed.

The good news for Jokowi is that 71 percent of respondents are generally satisfied with the country’s security situation and 56 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. As important, over the past four months, the number of respondents satisfied with Jokowi’s performance has sharply increased and now outnumbers those dissatisfied (51.7 percent to 45.5 percent). He gets high marks for delivering better public services—health, education, and roads —of which he can be justifiably proud (see figure 1). Enrollment in his flagship national health insurance program surged to include 133 million participants by the end of 2014. Similarly, the government significantly expanded the smart card program that gives poor children access to education and the family welfare card program that supports poor families. His favorable rating for road building reflects a recent—albeit delayed—acceleration in infrastructure spending by the government with the promise of more to come.

Read more at: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/10/27/jokowi-s-first-year-report-card/ikfl

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first state visit to the United States this week coincided almost exactly with his first anniversary in office. Back home, a recent poll by Indonesia’s most respected survey company provides a useful summary of how Indonesians rate the performance of their new president.1 Their assessment is decidedly mixed.

The good news for Jokowi is that 71 percent of respondents are generally satisfied with the country’s security situation and 56 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. As important, over the past four months, the number of respondents satisfied with Jokowi’s performance has sharply increased and now outnumbers those dissatisfied (51.7 percent to 45.5 percent). He gets high marks for delivering better public services—health, education, and roads —of which he can be justifiably proud (see figure 1). Enrollment in his flagship national health insurance program surged to include 133 million participants by the end of 2014. Similarly, the government significantly expanded the smart card program that gives poor children access to education and the family welfare card program that supports poor families. His favorable rating for road building reflects a recent—albeit delayed—acceleration in infrastructure spending by the government with the promise of more to come

Read more at: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/10/27/jokowi-s-first-year-report-card/ikfl

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Asian Democracies and Thailand’s Military Takeover

The military coup in Thailand has presented Asian democracies with a test case for their commitment to upholding democratic norms in the region.

The May 2014 military coup in Thailand followed a complicated series of political events. Widespread demonstrations against the government of then prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra had prevented the holding of an election in February 2014. Thailand was racked by turmoil as the protests against the government (the “yellow shirts”) in turn triggered large-scale mobilizations organized in favor of the government (the “red shirts”). A ruling by the Constitutional Court then removed the divisive prime minister from office. With violence persisting, the military stepped in to take power. It set up a National Council for Peace and Order, revoked a swath of political freedoms, and clamped down on anti-coup protests. The country has still not reverted to democratic rule. While promising a return to democracy, the military so far has simply consolidated its own power.

The events in Thailand have presented Asian democracies with an important test case for their commitment to upholding democratic norms in the region. In this article, the Japanese, South Korean, and Indian members of Carnegie’s Rising Democracies Network assess how their respective countries have responded. They explain why Asian responses to the coup have been so cautious and ambivalent. Our guest contributor, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, offers a Thai perspective on why it has been U.S. and not Asian positions that have kept pressure on the Thai junta to move the country back to democracy.
Japan: Backtracking

Maiko Ichihara

The Japanese government was slow to respond to the growing unrest in Thailand, and its early words urging the restoration of democracy were soon drowned out by actions that spoke the opposite: establishing bilateral relations with the military junta.

The first Japanese government statements about the growing unrest in Thailand were released on November 26, 2013, the day after a large-scale antigovernment demonstration took place in Bangkok over a proposed blanket amnesty bill to pardon politicians, including former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of Yingluck Shinawatra who himself was ousted in a 2006 military coup. The statement by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged self-restraint on all sides in Thailand and the restoration of normal relations.

Within a day of when the National Council for Peace and Order assumed power in Thailand, the Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed its deep regret and this time strongly urged the restoration of democracy. However, it did not take any action to help the Thai junta draw up a concrete road map toward democratic elections. Nor did the Japanese government reach out to other Asian countries to help Thailand with the restoration of democracy.

At a news conference the next day, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized that the Thai political system had to be decided by the people of Thailand.

Japan also avoided expressing concrete issues of concern such as the dissolution of the Thai Senate and restrictions on free speech and assembly. Instead, in a very generic sense, Japan asserted its hope for the restoration of civilian rule and democracy. In addition, in trying to persuade the Thai junta to lift martial law, Japanese governmental officials occasionally raised an economic argument, stating that Japanese tourists would not return to Thailand until after martial law was lifted.

Then, sometime between late August and early September 2014, the Japanese government seems to have decided to establish good bilateral relations with the Thai junta government.

The first official meeting between a Japanese government official and the Thai junta government took place on September 4, when then Thai permanent secretary for foreign affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow visited with Kishida. During the meeting, Kishida discussed Japan’s intention to maintain strong bilateral cooperation with Thailand while still holding out hope for the restoration of democracy. Shigekazu Sato, the then Japanese ambassador to Thailand, subsequently made courtesy visits to most Thai junta cabinet members.

Then, on October 16, during the tenth annual Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan, Italy, where General Prayut Chan-o-cha made his international debut as Thailand’s prime minister, the coup leader met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. At that meeting, the first between Prayut and the political leader of a developed country, Abe emphasized Japan’s intention to foster cooperation with the junta government.

Subsequently, expressions of Japan’s hope for the restoration of democracy in Thailand disappeared from official statements. Furthermore, the Japanese government did not comment on Yingluck Shinawatra’s impeachment or the tightened military control after the lifting of martial law.

There seem to be multiple reasons for the shift in the Japanese government’s approach to the Thai junta government. First, Japanese companies have pushed the Japanese government to maintain good bilateral relations with the Thai government, even while it remains under military rule. Indeed, Japan is the biggest investor in Thailand; more than 1,500 Japanese companies had operations in Thailand as of April 2014, according to the Japan External Trade Organization.

Second, the Thai junta government approached China as Western countries were criticizing the military rule, and Thailand has used the China card as a bargaining chip when speaking to Japan.

In playing the geopolitical power game with China for political influence and also fearing the relative economic loss to China in Thailand, the Japanese government apparently felt that it did not have the option of prioritizing a push for democratic restoration. However, such a pragmatic approach does not sit easily with the Abe administration’s ostensible emphasis on values-based diplomacy.
South Korea: Unprepared

Jeong-Woo Koo

At the 2014 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit on December 10, in Busan, South Korea, human rights and democracy issues were notably left off the agenda, and indeed there was no mention or discussion of either matter in regard to Thailand. Instead, the meeting focused on measures to deepen the strategic partnership between South Korea and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), cooperate on regional security, and accelerate economic growth. The meeting also dealt with how to address regional issues such as joint responses to climate change and to natural disasters.

South Korean civil society criticized the South Korean government and ASEAN heads for failing to address Thailand’s military coup or to respond collectively to the subsequent setbacks to basic civil and political rights in the kingdom. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led the coup and became the prime minister of the military junta, was one of the participants in the Busan meeting.

The political background of South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, has militated against a critical response to the military coup, the associated public unrest, and the resultant suppression of basic rights in Thailand. Her father, Park Chung-hee, ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979. As a presidential candidate, Park Geun-hye issued a public apology for human rights abuses undertaken during his presidency, but she described his 1961 military coup as necessary for the nation.

Since her election as president in December 2012, Park Geun-hye has focused on trying to rejuvenate economic development, while taking tough stances on South-North Korean détente in favor of building a strong deterrent against the North. Critics argue that this has deflected the government from carving out a coherent framework on the promotion of democracy and human rights, including in Thailand. As a consequence, for example, the rapidly rising South Korean foreign aid is increasingly driven by national interest motives, rather than by development motives.
India: Business as Usual

Niranjan Sahoo

Although India took a visible step of pulling back its troops to give a gentle nudge to the Thai military regime, its post-coup engagement with the junta leadership looks very much like business as usual.

In fact, recent engagements between the Thai junta and India’s defense and commerce ministries have taken a positive direction. The recent high-profile visit of India’s national security adviser to Thailand led to the signing of several landmark agreements between the two distant neighbors on a range of issues including defense and strategic cooperation, maritime security, and counterterrorism, among others.1

India has found it easy to do business with the Thai junta. In part that is because it shares a very close bond with Thailand and in part because it is wary of China’s growing economic and military strength. The Thai junta government under General Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed its willingness conclude a free trade agreement with India and to support India’s trilateral highway initiative that would connect India, Myanmar, and Thailand on land routes.

In other words, India’s post-coup response has been based on pragmatic strategic and economic concerns more than any keenness to uphold or promote values such as democracy and human rights. Thus it is unsurprising that India has not said a word on the junta’s imposition of martial law, restriction of freedom of expression, and clear violation of the rule of law in the hushed-up trial against the ousted prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

India’s initial response to the Thai military coup was decidedly low-key. On May 21, 2014, the External Affairs Ministry stated that, “We hope that the people of Thailand resolve the political situation peacefully through dialogue and uphold the rule of law.”2

Some analysts have suggested that India’s subdued response to such a major event in its near neighborhood was because of the country’s preoccupation with a monthlong general election.3 However, those who have been tracking India’s reactions to coups elsewhere know well that the standard response of the Indian External Affairs Ministry is one of noninterference in another country’s internal affairs.4

In this instance, India viewed Thailand’s democratic process as its own internal matter that should go through a process of correction and adjustment. This is similar to the position India took against the military coup that ousted Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.5

But India did react more strongly to the most recent Thai military coup than to Thailand’s military coup in 2006, when Thaksin Shinawatra, the older brother of Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted as prime minister. This time, India canceled a joint military exercise with the Thai army.6 Considering India’s traditional foreign policy stance of noninterference, that decision was a significant step.

Among India’s vibrant civil society and democracy watchdogs, the response to the Thai coup has been surprisingly muted. The democracy watchdogs had been more concerned when coups occurred elsewhere (as in Egypt and the Maldives). The fact that Thailand has suffered frequent coups may explain the lukewarm response.
Asian Versus Western Responses

Thitinan Pongsudhirak

The responses of Japan, South Korea, and India to the 2014 Thai military coup have been influenced by Western powers and by regional geopolitical competition. In crucial ways, the Western responses—and in particular the stern position of the United States—set the tone and benchmark for Asian reactions.

The contrast between Washington’s opprobrium and Beijing’s acceptance of Thailand’s May 2014 coup defined the post-coup context.

The United States adopted a much tougher posture toward this coup than it had taken in response to the previous Thai coup in 2006. The Thai military had reassured U.S officials that no coup was in preparation. Thus, the United States felt deceived when the military intervened. The United States implemented measured sanctions, downgraded relations with Thailand, and called for the immediate holding of free elections and the restoration of democracy. Washington felt it had been taken for a ride in 2014, while it let the Thai military off the hook in 2006.

China, meanwhile, was going to be a fair-weather friend irrespective of Washington’s severity of response. Beijing was relaxed and uncritical in its reaction to both the 2006 and 2014 coups. Because Washington’s hardline reaction in 2014 was so conspicuous, Beijing’s embrace of the coup leaders was of greater significance in 2014 than it had been in 2006. As Western criticism of the most recent Thai military seizure of power increased, Thailand’s top brass sought and received succor from Beijing.

The Asian states’ response to Thailand’s coup is driven by interests, not values. Soft and hard authoritarian Asian states, from Cambodia and Malaysia to Myanmar, Vietnam, and China, are hardly advocates of democratic rule. Meanwhile, the more democratic states—Japan, South Korea, and India—have too much at stake to toe pro-democracy lines at the expense of commercial benefits and geopolitical interests.

The key voice in Asian reactions toward the Thai putsch was Japan’s. Tokyo did not want to “lose” Thailand to China, as it felt it had lost Myanmar in the 1990s by focusing too much on democracy. But it had no other choice initially than to condemn the coup and call for the restoration of democratic rule.

By September 2014, senior Japanese diplomats were in search of a more nuanced position. They wanted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to visit Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo in response to an earlier flurry of high-level visits between senior Thai and Chinese government and military leaders. Abe received Prayut in Tokyo, signed a memorandum of understanding to build an east–west rail project in Thailand, and enticed the Thai leader to publicly reassure an election date in early 2016.

This election pledge subsequently slipped indefinitely, of course, but Japan had made its point. It opposed the coup on democratic values but found a way to protect its interests vis-à-vis China in mainland Southeast Asia. Thai leaders sought hedging strategies from Japan due to the relatively unfavorable terms that Beijing had attached to a proposed rail development project. Japan’s geopolitical competition against China has become one of the most significant influences over Thailand’s post-coup conundrums.

Other Asian democratic concerns were more ephemeral. Both President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines and then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia expressed disapproval of the Thai coup within hours and almost by instinct. But these positions were not sustained and later succumbed to the cardinal noninterference expediency favored by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

India and South Korea, meanwhile, appeared relatively indifferent and followed routine business-as-usual approaches. For them, interests trumped values. The same can be said of Thailand’s other ASEAN neighbors, none known as a bastion of democratic rule.

They can hardly be blamed in view of an incipient Western retreat from democracy championing. In May 2015, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop became the first senior leader of a Western country to visit Thailand and effectively recognized the Thai coup leaders.

For both sides of the Thai divide, what the West says and does still matters most. Western criticism cannot dislodge the post-coup government in Bangkok. But despite their insistence that they pay no heed to international impressions, the ruling generals in fact do monitor and care about how the international community views Thailand. The absence of repeated Western calls for elections and democratic rule in Thailand would remove the really significant factor that keeps the military at least talking about a new constitution and verifiable election timetable.

Read more at: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/10/13/asian-democracies-and-thailand-s-military-takeover/iiu3?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRohv67MZKXonjHpfsX67O0oWqGg38431UFwdcjKPmjr1YQAScJ0aPyQAgobGp5I5FEIQ7XYTLB2t60MWA%3D%3D

 

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Perception and Misperception in American and Chinese Views of the Other

The underlying beliefs that people in the United States and China hold toward each other in the security realm are likely to influence, directly or indirectly, each side’s foreign policy with regard to the bilateral relationship.

The underlying beliefs that people in the United States and China hold toward each other in the security realm are likely to influence, directly or indirectly, each side’s foreign policy with regard to the bilateral relationship. In-depth analyses of elite and public opinion survey data from the United States and China on a wide range of security issues provide nuanced and far-reaching insights into the potential effects of these attitudes on the U.S.-China relationship.
Key Findings

There are substantial gaps in American and Chinese perceptions of the basic traits and characteristics that each side exhibits. However, at the individual level, strong in-group exceptionalism does not necessarily predict out-group denigration.

A considerable part of the Chinese population appears to believe that China should not take on a world leadership role, or if it does, it should jointly lead the world with the United States. These attitudes are associated both with older respondents and with those in their thirties and early forties.

In general, mistrust of the external world on the Chinese side stems from educational socialization and media messaging.

Tea Party supporters in the United States demonstrate very low levels of trust toward China and, as a result, advocate much tougher economic and military policies. However, the Tea Party is less interested in interfering in the internal affairs of China than other elements of the population.

Analyzing the Results

Credible reassurance signals from the United States may be well received if aimed at individuals in the Chinese government, even if said individuals espouse a strong belief in Chinese exceptionalism.

The younger cohort of Chinese citizens has yet to influence Chinese politics and policy, and there may be some basis for expecting that this group could be more accepting of a continued, dominant U.S. role in international politics.

Efforts to affect Chinese beliefs about the United States may be limited by the powerful socializing effects of the Chinese government–controlled education and propaganda systems.

If the U.S. Congress and the next president are beholden to the Tea Party for electoral success, then there might be more conflict in the security and economic realms but somewhat less support for the United States’ cost-imposing policies on China’s internal affairs.

Read More : http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/09/23/perception-and-misperception-in-american-and-chinese-views-of-other/ii18?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRohu6jBZKXonjHpfsX67O0oWqGg38431UFwdcjKPmjr1YUGS8d0aPyQAgobGp5I5FEIQ7XYTLB2t60MWA%3D%3D

 


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Turkey’s Game-Changing Election

 

The outcome of Turkey’s parliamentary election on June 7, 2015, will mark a pivotal moment for the country’s future. Postelection scenarios include, at one extreme, a move by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to centralize power in the presidency and, at the other, the possibility of a coalition government after twelve years of single-party rule.

In this Q&A, Marc Pierini and Sinan Ülgen walk through the fundamentals of Turkey’s critical vote and explain its high stakes. Pierini and Ülgen say that the election is marked by several divisive issues, including the peace process to settle Turkey’s Kurdish problem and the integrity of the country’s democracy. Yet perhaps the defining feature of this election is that the outcome, for the first time in over a decade, is clouded in uncertainty.

 

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Challenges Ahead for Indonesian President Widodo

 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo faces two huge challenges. The first is political, even existential, and has mesmerized the country for the last fortnight. The second is economic, less well known and less urgent, but will also test his leadership mettle.

The stakes are high. With steely resolve and good management, Widodo could emerge stronger. But succumbing to expediency would weaken him irreparably as a political leader; some have even suggested that his administration could end prematurely.

At the center of Indonesia’s rapidly evolving political crisis is the president’s nominee for police chief, Budi Gunawan. In the minds of many Indonesians, Widodo rightfully postponed Gunawan’s inauguration when it emerged (after his nomination) that he was under investigation by the Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials KPK. But Gunawan, it turns out, is a loyal and longtime acolyte of ex-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Widodo’s mentor and leader of his party, the Indonesian Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

On her instructions, senior members of the party and its allies have threatened dire consequences if Gunawan is not sworn in immediately as police chief. Some have warned darkly of withdrawing support for Widodo’s legislative program in parliament. Others, more rashly, have hinted at impeachment.

The stakes were raised when, in seemingly blatant retaliation, the police arrested the KPK’s deputy chief commissioner for an alleged crime committed five years ago, leading him to resign. The police then opened investigations, unusually quickly by their standards, against another three commissioners (including the KPK’s chief), reportedly on complaints brought by PDI-P members. If they were to resign too, the KPK would become ineffective and halt any further progress in Gunawan’s investigation.

If Widodo — who campaigned on a platform of curbing corruption — holds his ground on Gunawan’s inauguration despite these pressure tactics, he could cause the PDI-P to split. The PDI-P’s party faithful would then have to choose between him and Megawati. And there is every likelihood that the majority would not choose Megawati. Indeed, if the popular media is any reflection of public opinion, then not only has she on this occasion overplayed her hand, but she also seems out of touch with the country’s mood, appearing to value loyalty over integrity.

PDI-P parliamentarians, on the other hand, will think twice about abandoning Megawati, because she has the legal authority as party leader to remove and replace them. But if they defy her en masse, or apply the tried-and-tested response of challenging their party leader’s action in the courts, then they could remain in parliament for months, if not years. In the meantime, Prabowo Subianto — Widodo’s unsuccessful rival for the presidency, and a leading member of the opposition coalition — has expressed support for the embattled president.

The combination of these factors has strengthened Widodo’s hand. Wilting under Megawati’s pressure — unlikely from the start — now looks increasingly out of the question. His preference would probably be for Megawati to orchestrate a face saving climb down so the appearance of filial piety between the president and his mentor can be maintained and he can retain the PDI-P’s support in parliament with little disruption. But if it comes to the Javanese equivalent of a showdown, Widodo’s principled position would resonate well within his party and the electorate, and he would emerge the stronger politically.

Widodo will also need political strength to tackle the second, less visible, economic challenge confronting the country. Plummeting international oil prices will mean sharply lower oil revenues for Indonesia’s 2015 budget, which could potentially eviscerate the economic centerpiece of his campaign — an ambitious plan to double infrastructure investment this year. The draft budget before parliament obscures this problem by substituting lower oil revenues with unrealistic projections for non-oil tax revenues. Not only will the tax authorities almost certainly fall well short of the budget targets, their efforts to reach them could become overzealous and damage the country’s fragile investment climate.

Instead, Indonesia’s economic ministers need a more nuanced and eclectic approach toward achieving their ambitious infrastructure investment plans. This would involve more modest increases in non-oil tax revenues, greater borrowing from the banking system by infrastructure related state enterprises, and a higher than planned budget deficit financed through increased government borrowing from official bilateral and multilateral sources. These changes could be incorporated in the mid-year budget revisions later this year, so there would be no need to hold up parliamentary approval of the current draft budget. But this course of action would require an honest recognition of the resource challenge to the budget numbers, and deft handling of the adjustments needed in revenue, borrowing, and expenditure plans. Whatever happens, Widodo’s leadership and management skills, together with those of his coordinating minister for the economy, Sofyan Djalil, will be tested.

Widodo is learning fast that politics in the big city can be bruising. In politics, as in most things, the urgent tends to take precedence over the important. In Indonesia’s case, Widodo must first meet the urgent challenge to his presidency. Only then will he be able to shift his attention to the more important task of increasing infrastructure investment and building the foundations for rapid growth in the future. His compass should be the popular mandate on which he was elected. If he sticks to that, he will not go wrong.

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China: The Influence of History

As China’s power and influence continue to grow in Asia and beyond, many analysts look to Chinese history to understand how a strong China will behave and view the world in the future.

 

Many of these attempts to apply an historical lens engage in gross simplifications and misreadings of the relevance and meaning of hundreds of years of Chinese thought and behavior. China is often viewed, incorrectly, as if it existed as a monolithic whole over centuries, possessed the same political and security outlook at each stage of its development, and behaved as a modern nation state does today. In particular, some observers blithely assert that China always sought to dominate its world in hard power terms, often succeeded in doing so, and will naturally seek such a position of dominance in the future.

 

The reality is much more complex and nuanced. In the pre-modern era, Chinese security behavior varied enormously from dynasty to dynasty and between periods of strength and weakness. The variation was so extensive that some China historians believe it is impossible to make any meaningful generalizations about traditional Chinese foreign policy and security behavior, much less apply those lessons to the present and future. Indeed, many historians firmly believe that the emergence of nation states and the rise of nationalism in China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the effort to build a strong, prosperous, and modern state and society together offer a far more relevant and reliable context for understanding current and future Chinese security behavior than does the pre-modern era.

 

So, how does history influence Chinese thought and behavior today, and how it might it do so as Chinese power and influence grow in the future? The lessons of history are reflected in three sets of attitudes: national pride alongside a strong fear of chaos; an inculcated image of a peace-loving and defensive polity alongside a strong and virtuous central government; and a unique, hierarchical yet mutually beneficial view of inter-state relations.

 

Regarding the first area, most Chinese are very proud of China’s long history as a strong and vibrant culture and as a highly influential political and social entity. They believe that China belongs in the front ranks of the major powers, certainly in Asia, and in some respects globally as well. They are also extremely proud of China’s accomplishments during the market-driven economic reform era inaugurated in the late seventies, and place a very high value on national growth and continued increases in Chinese living standards, as well as the respect that China’s accomplishments are engendering in the world. While many Chinese value the greater freedoms they are enjoying under the reforms, many, probably most, remain acutely fearful of domestic political and social chaos of the type experienced in the modern era, i.e., since the mid-19th century.

 

For many Chinese, the experience of domestic chaos is closely associated with the depredations inflicted on China by the imperialist Western powers and Japan in the 19th and early 20th centuries (the so-called century of humiliation). Moreover, for many Chinese, Western personal and political freedoms, in a huge country like China, with massive numbers of low income and poorly educated citizens, high levels of corruption and a weak civil society, can spell chaos. As a result of these concerns, and the desire for China to again become a strong and wealthy nation, most Chinese value a strong, unified, and proudly nationalistic central government led by “virtuous” individuals who keep the people’s interests in mind. They are not inclined, either historically or culturally, to endorse a Western, liberal democratic, divided-power political system. This belief is changing among some elements of the more educated urban class in China, but only gradually. For most Chinese, the West still offers only tools for advancements in power and prosperity, not political and social models.

 

Regarding the second set of traits, many years of PRC propaganda and an interpretation of Chinese history provided by statist nationalists (whether communist or Chinese nationalist) have inculcated in most Chinese the view of a China in the world that is largely peace-loving and non-threatening, oriented toward the defense of its territory and internal development, and more aligned, in its basic interests, with developing states, rather than the advanced industrial democracies. Moreover, a long pre-modern history of unstable borders and vulnerability to attacks from the periphery, combined with the century of humiliation experience, have inculcated a strong suspicion toward the possible manipulation of China’s domestic scene by outsiders. As a result, many Chinese often see Western (and especially American) “hegemony” or dominance in the world today as part of a long historical proclivity for stronger powers to interfere in and prey upon weaker powers. For many Chinese, the West thus assists China’s growth for personal profit (and perhaps to undermine China), not primarily to “help” the Chinese people.

 

Third, China is a nation of contradictions. Alongside the above views and sentiments, many Chinese admire the accomplishments of the West and in many ways seek to emulate Western practices, especially in the economic and some social realms. And significant numbers of Chinese admire American freedoms and generally like the American people. For some of the older, educated generation, the pre-1949 history of Sino-American relations provides many examples of positive American behavior toward China. In addition, despite identification with the developing world and a strong suspicion of the supposedly arrogant and hegemonistic West, many Chinese take the historical view that the international system is in many ways hierarchical, and that larger, more imposing powers have a duty and responsibility to both guide and shape smaller powers in mutually beneficial directions. This is especially true for China’s relations with its smaller peripheral neighbors. For many Chinese, mutual respect, deference, and responsibility are a significant part of desired interstate behavior. This partly reflects not only China’s historical place in Asia, but also the general belief of many Chinese that adherence to proper principles of conduct should define relations in a hierarchical world. Hegemonic powers by definition don’t adhere to such proper principles.

 

Of course, some Chinese seek to manipulate this concept to serve more pragmatic, sometimes selfish ends. And at least some Chinese believe that all major powers, including China, have hegemonic inclinations. But overall, most Chinese apparently believe that China’s rightful place in the international order is as a major (not singularly dominant) power whose views must be respected but who exists in general harmony with other nations. This is a far cry from the notion of China as a resurgent leviathan bent on dominating Asia and the world beyond.

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Indonesia’s Trajectory 2014-2019: An Insider’s Forecast


Synopsis

The release of the book ‘Toward 2014-2019: Strengthening Indonesia in a Changing World’, published by the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN), provides an interesting and important insider’s look at how Indonesia sees its role in the ASEAN region and the world stage.

Commentary

AS INDONESIA – now under the leadership of President Joko Widodo and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla – looks to the future and re-assesses its place and role in the ASEAN region and the global arena, the country’s leaders and major stakeholders have begun to forecast the likely trajectory that it will take in the years to come.

The publication of the book ‘Toward 2014-2019: Strengthening Indonesia in a Changing World’, by the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN), provides an interesting and important insider’s look at how Indonesia sees its future and what it wishes to achieve over the next five years. The fact that the book was written in English suggests that this is a text that is meant for wider consideration beyond Indonesia: Here it is clear that the Indonesian technocratic elite want their opinions to be known abroad, and taken into account.

 

Indonesia’s Assessment of The World

Initiated by the Head of the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Marciano Norman and edited by Dr Muhammad A.S. Hikam, former Minister for Research and Technology (1999-2001), the book brings together the combined research of several dozen prominent Indonesian specialists and academics, as well as the findings of many focus group discussions.

Starting from a global perspective, the book begins by offering an Indonesian assessment of the state of global affairs. Citing examples such as the Ukraine crisis and the conflict in Syria, the authors argue that ‘old world powers’ are still competing on the global geo-strategic stage. Recognising the once-pivotal role played by the United States as the only global power , the authors look at Russia, China and Europe as other sources of power , and argue that Indonesia now exists in a more complex world where alternative developmental models and paradigms present themselves.

It is in this context of an increasingly plural and complex world that Indonesia seeks to find its niche, and align itself with like-minded powers: The authors note that China – unlike the US – happens to be a major power that does not impress its value-system on other allied countries, and is able to accept diversity and difference in political-developmental models. . Conversely, the West’s promotion of democracy in situations such as the Arab Spring uprisings has not yielded clear results.

Between rhetoric about democratisation and real material benefits such as foreign investment, the authors seem more inclined towards the latter, and note that China’s investments in Asia and Africa have led to tangible material results. Thus despite whatever strategic-military reliance Indonesia may have had on its Western allies in the past, the authors veer in the direction of pragmatism and note that in the decades to come Indonesia’s main economic partners are likely to be Asian and that the country will need to fend for itself when securing its energy, food and resources security.

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Energy Still Turns the Wheels of Geopolitics

 

The world is about to discover that the substantial and totally unexpected drop in the price of crude oil may be as disruptive as the shock of oil price hikes in 1974.

Recent news out of Russia, Venezuela and Cuba illustrate how the consequences are beginning to become apparent.

 

In Venezuela, the economy was in shambles when oil was at $120 per barrel; with prices now sliding below $60 per barrel, the government known for its rampant corruption and woeful management is spinning out of control. Yet, President Nicolás Maduro has repeatedly claimed that the dire situation is caused by an international conspiracy and has reacted by ramping up the attacks on his critics (like me) and the repression of opposition politicians.

 

Venezuela’s economic collapse was an important factor in the historic change in U.S.-Cuba relations announced by President Obama and Raúl Castro on Dec. 17. Cuba’s bankrupt economy was kept afloat largely thanks to Venezuela’s massive oil subsidies since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998. Recently, however, it became obvious that betting Cuba’s economy on Venezuela’s lifeline was too risky. Venezuela’s chaotic economy and politics increased the odds that the arrangements of the past 15 years will be harder to maintain. This surely made Cuba’s leaders more inclined to accept a thawing with the U.S. likely to spur trade and investment to the island. Thus, in very indirect but powerful ways, low oil has also been a factor in disrupting what had been a stagnant and ineffectual policy in place for over half a century.

 

In Russia on Monday equities in the Moscow stock market were down 11 percent, and the ruble plunged 13 percent, which meant that a quarter of the dollar value of all Russian-listed companies was wiped out in one day. The central bank reacted by raising interest rates from 10.5 percent to 17 percent. This painful move was still not enough to contain the swift and massive drop in reserves and a quickly devaluing currency driven by the huge decline in oil revenues, (75 percent of total exports and 50 percent of public budget revenues) massive capital flight and economic sanctions. The fear, of course, is that a belligerent Vladimir Putin will stir troubles abroad to distract from the dire situation at home.

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Shaping U.S. Energy Policy For an Era of Energy Abundance

 

Subcommittee Chairman Whitfield, Ranking Member Rush, distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today to examine the Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975 in an era of energy transition. – Deborah Gordan

I am the director of the Energy and Climate program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a non-partisan think tank. I began my career with Chevron as a chemical engineer and then spent over two decades researching transport energy policy at Yale University, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and for a wide array of non-profit, public, and private sector clients. I have authored several books and numerous reports on transportation, oil, and climate policymaking.

 

 

In my remarks today, I will make three key points: the need to understand the changing conditions influencing today’s crude oil market; the need for better information about the chemical characteristics, quality, and operational specifications of U.S. oils; and the need to deal with the environmental consequences from an unconditional lifting of the oil export ban.

 

The bottom line is that oils are changing. A more complex array of hydrocarbon resources is replacing conventional oils. The truth is that precious little is known about these new resources. The nation needs reliable, consistent, detailed, open-source data about the composition and operational elements of U.S. oils. Significant information gaps have accompanied the nation’s increase in oil production, impeding sound decision making. Public and private stakeholders need to fully understand the environmental impacts inherent to different oils. The best way to position America for success in an era of energy abundance is to generate the information necessary to make wise decisions among the many oil options. Without this information, the debate over lifting the ban on U.S. crude oil exports is taking place in a context in which policymakers are essentially operating blindly.

 

The Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) can serve as a template for addressing some of the shortcomings that exist today as America struggles to manage the economic, geopolitical, and climate impacts of its new bounty of oils.

 

Read the full text.

 

See our infographic on how global oils are becoming increasingly complex.

 

See some examples of oil data that is not consistently or publicly available.

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Being Middle Class in India

 

Over the next two months, The Hindu will release the findings of a new survey on the aspirations and anxieties of ordinary Indians. The survey is the latest round of a multi-year panel study sponsored by the Lok Foundation and carried out in collaboration with the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace.

The “Lok Surveys” aim to track the attitudes of Indians over the next several years, as part of a significant new effort to understand the social and political reconfigurations taking place across India today. CMIE, on behalf of the Lok Foundation, conducted face-to-face interviews of 69,920 randomly selected Indians across 25 states and union territories between January and May 2014. Because our sample is about two-thirds urban and one-third rural, 2011 Census data is used to reweight the sample to ensure urban/rural representativeness.

 

 

The rapid growth of the Indian economy over the past three decades has led to a substantial expansion of India’s “middle class”. This has triggered a robust debate over who in India actually belongs to the “middle class,” its size, composition, and political and social behaviour. This is a debate with serious implications for economic growth and governance since a range of scholarship in diverse settings has shown that the middle class is an important driver of a country’s economic, political and social development.

 

But is the middle class anything more than simply a large group whose income makes it neither rich nor poor? Are differences within the middle class, especially in income, education and cultural and social capital, so wide as to render moot any ideological or behavioural coherence to this group?

This also happens to be a debate with no easy answers because social class is a conceptually complex measure; there is neither a universally accepted definition of middle class nor widely available data on the income of Indian households, as opposed to their consumption patterns. But even if acceptable measures and hard data could be marshalled, they would still be ill-equipped to nail down a rather elusive concept: whether Indians actually believe and behave as if they are part of the middle class. Self-identification of class status is important because it suggests the possibility that Indians may behave in ways that are actually at odds with material realities.

 

To investigate this, the latest Lok survey asked respondents from across the country whether they considered their family to be a “middle class” family.

 

To our surprise, nearly half (49 per cent) of all survey respondents believed their family is a middle class family. There was, as one would expect, great variation in responses across states. For instance, while 68 per cent of respondents in Karnataka believed their family belonged to the middle class, just 29 per cent of respondents in Madhya Pradesh felt the same. Self-identification as middle class is expectedly more prevalent among urban respondents (56 per cent) but the share of rural individuals claiming to be middle class is also remarkably high (46 per cent).

 

 

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