Suharto vows to act fast on revamping economy



PRESIDENT Suharto yesterday reaffirmed his pledge to move quickly on economic reform to bail Indonesia out of the current financial crisis and restore confidence in its economy.

“The President is determined to deal with the issue constructively and to move very quickly on various reforms once they are committed,” US Defence Secretary William Cohen said after talks with Mr Suharto.

“He indicated that he is committed to rebuilding the confidence in the economic situation in Indonesia.”

Mr Suharto’s reaffirmation provided new signs that he was prepared to push ahead with economic reform demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for a three-year US$23 billion (S$40 billion) stabilisation package to restore the economy to an even keel.

His latest pledge follows discussions on Tuesday with US Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, when he indicated that he was ready to restructure the economy at the urging of US President Bill Clinton as well as Australian, German and Japanese leaders.

He also assured Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong the Indonesian government was committed fully to the IMF economic reform package.

Mr Cohen, the second high-ranking US official to meet Mr Suharto in two days, described his 40-minute talks with the President as “constructive”. The talks ranged from engaging China to the current economic malaise.

He noted that the long-serving Indonesian leader was in “great health” contrary to recent reports that he was ill.

Mr Cohen said: “He was very strong in his recitation of the history of this country, the economic progress it has made, the economic problems that are currently being encountered and his determination to overcome them.”

Mr Suharto, he added, had acknowledged that the currency crisis, which has hit Indonesia the worst among Asian nations, would also affect other countries.

The President was quick to point out that the economic situation in Indonesia would have an impact upon other countries in the region, and that any instability that were to continue here would have an obvious impact upon other countries as well, Mr Cohen said.

The financial crisis has sent currencies and shares tumbling throughout much of Asia, especially in Indonesia where the rupiah lost nearly 70 per cent of its value in six months.

Addressing businessmen and diplomats later, Mr Cohen brushed aside rumours that Western countries were responsible for the devaluation of Asian currencies.

“There is no benefit for the West to have an Asia that is unstable,” he stressed. “We want to promote prosperity and stability in the region and want to see countries here get back on track again.”

Posted in Indonesia