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Democracy needs strong institutions, says Yudhoyono

Publication Date : 16-08-2014


In his final State of the Nation Address after a decade in office, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reminded Indonesians that their democracy cannot be dependent on any one figure, but has to hinge on institutions, regulations, laws and norms.

"History has taught us that if the system is strong, our country will be strong, the people will be strong.

"But if the system is weak and corrupt, our democracy will be unstable and degraded," he said yesterday as he urged the people to work together to preserve the quality of their democracy.

"It would be a pity if our democracy loses its spirit, and the political stage is dominated by a few transaction-minded elites, and tainted by a narrow sense of nationalism."

His speech comes in the wake of a hotly contested election that saw Jakarta governor Joko Widodo defeat former general Prabowo Subianto by winning 53.15 per cent of the vote. Prabowo is challenging the result in the Constitutional Court, which will issue its ruling next week.

Many expect the court to dismiss the challenge in favour of Joko. The President-elect has pledged to fight corruption and introduce a more consultative style of government, and Dr Yudhoyono pledged to help Joko continue to build the country after he leaves office on October 20.

In his speech, Dr Yudhoyono noted that smooth transitions to democracy were rare, and that Indonesia was making progress where many had failed.

"The journey of Indonesia at present has been marked by political stability, relatively high economic growth, and increasingly stronger national unity. Let us continue to maintain this huge asset for future generations."

He outlined several key achievements under his watch: average annual growth of 5.9 per cent between 2009 and 2013, a reduction in the sovereign debt, and a more-than-threefold rise in per capita incomes from 10.5 million rupiah a year in 2004 to 36.6 million rupiah last year. 

Indonesia has also become a member of the G-20, and a key player in the global economy.

And it has raised compulsory education to 12 years and introduced universal health-care insurance, he added.

Speaking on the budget in the afternoon, Dr Yudhoyono noted that total government spending grew from 427.2 trillion rupiah in 2004 to a forecast 2,019.9 trillion rupiah next year, and that unemployment had been nearly halved from 11.2 per cent in 2005 to 5.7 per cent in February. 

While he felt global economic turbulence might continue next year, he expected the Indonesian economy to grow by 5.6 per cent.

Dr Yudhoyono acknowledged that corruption remained a problem, but was optimistic about the ongoing effort to combat it.

He noted how he had supported corruption probes into top officials. In the past decade, nearly 280 high-ranking officials, including provincial governors and judges, were investigated by the Corruption Eradication Commission.

In reminding Indonesians to maintain the fundamentals of their nation, including diversity, the spirit of unity and tolerance, he called on them to reject the teachings of the militant group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"Indonesia... believes in God but it is not a religious state," he said. "The world is full of examples of countries that are developing but then fall to pieces. Such a thing must never happen to our country."

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