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Indonesia leader upbeat on economy, vows to aid poor JAKARTA - Indonesia's president pledged on Wednesday to use an anticipated pick-up in Southeast Asia's biggest economy to tackle poverty, and also to stick with a fight against corruption and encourage foreign investment. In an annual address to parliament ahead of Indonesia's Aug. 17 independence day, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono focused on the economy,but also hailed a peace deal in Aceh and repeated a willingness to commit troops to a U.N. force in Lebanon.

"Tackling poverty requires not just high economic growth,but also growth that directly takes into account the condition of poor people," he said in a prepared speech. The president, who is a third of the way through a five-year term, said a target of 6.3 percent economic growth next year was achievable helped by public spending and lower interest rates.

The economy needs to grow at least 6 percent to cut chronic unemployment, although it has been falling short of that target, hurt by big fuel price hikes last year to curb huge subsidies. Millions in the world's fourth most populous country live on less than $2 a day, while official data show around 11 million people out of work and 30 million working under 35 hours a week.

Yudhoyono urged the country, which has suffered repeated terror attacks in recent years, to remain on its guard. "We are grateful this year for the fact that our country has not had any more terrorist attacks, but even with this situation, let us not be careless and continue to be alert."

Red and white Indonesian flags have been fluttering from buildings for days, with celebrations for the 61st anniversary of independence due to be held across the vast country on Thursday. Hotels and malls in the capital carry huge neon signs saying: "Dirgahayu RI 61"

The 56-year-old Yudhoyono, whose approval rating in polls has slipped below 50 percent, said high economic growth was key to tackling poverty and that programmes to help the poor in the sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands would be revamped. "We hope an improvement in economic growth during the second quarter will be an early sign of consolidation and a strengthening of economic activity in the second half."

He announced plans to lift wages of civil servants by 23.2 percent next year. The low pay of public workers has been blamed for encouraging corruption, while resistance from the bureaucracy is also regarded as a key obstacle to implementing policies. Reducing graft in Indonesia, regularly rated among the most corrupt nations in the world, has been cited as key to attract foreign investors who want a more transparent and honest legal system.

Some commentators have said an anti-corruption drive is paralysing business plans and while Yudhoyono said he recognised such worries he said the battle should continue. "I wish to stress, however, that there is no need for worry as long as everything is done according to procedure with clarity." He said Indonesia was ready to send troops to Lebanon as part of a U.N. force.

"We assert our readiness to cooperate with the peace-keeping forces for the protection of Palestine and Lebanon from the attacks by Israel." The recent Middle East violence has sparked anti-Israel protests in Indonesia, which is world's most populous Muslim nation and has no diplomatic relations with Israel. On Aceh, he urged all sides to stick to the Helsinki-signed truce signed a year ago, which is aimed at ending a 30-year war in the resource-rich province in which 15,000 people died.


Related blog entries (category 'General') Related blog entries (category 'General'):
13 August 2006 · Gov't sends financial aid to Palestine
09 August 2006 · Three Indonesian men face execution for Poso conflicts
07 August 2006 · Yudhoyono: Economy to expand 6% amidst reforms
14 July 2006 · Indonesia fully reopens border with Timor Leste
07 July 2006 · Thousands displaced by noxious mud in Java


Posted in General @ 16 August 2006 07:54 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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