Indonesian leader tries to secure legacy

2014-08-15 17:15
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (Torsten Blackwood, AFP)

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (Torsten Blackwood, AFP)

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Jakarta - Indonesia's president talked up his achievements on Friday during his last state of the nation address before stepping down after a decade in power, despite criticism of his government's lacklustre record during its final years.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that Indonesia was now politically stable following his two five-year terms at the helm, and highlighted the country's strong growth and what he said were successful efforts to fight corruption.

Yudhoyono took power in 2004, and was the first directly elected head of state in the world's third-biggest democracy following the downfall of Suharto in 1998 after his three-decade dictatorship.

"Our generation has made history", said Yudhoyono, whose presidency coincided with Indonesia's so-called reform era, when the country was making the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy.

"The journey of this nation is now characterised by stable politics, relatively high economic growth and stronger national unity."

He pointed out that the election to pick his successor, the reform-minded governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, had been peaceful.

While analysts are in little doubt that Yudhoyono, a former general, has brought stability to Indonesia, his administration was criticised in its final years for being beset by a sense of drift.

Corruption

Ministers in his coalition government were repeatedly hit by corruption scandals, and the fractious nature of parliament, where alliances between many parties are constantly shifting, meant it was hard to pass important legislation.

While Southeast Asia's top economy has been a top investment destination over the past decade, investors say the business climate has deteriorated recently due to rising economic nationalism and a failure to pass much-needed reforms.

Yudhoyono himself highlighted that challenges for doing business in Indonesia remained during Friday's speech, admitting that many projects during his time in office were halted for "political, bureaucratic and logistical reasons".

The president has also been criticised for failing to live up to his pledge to fight corruption, with a new stream of cases regularly reported and members of his own party hit by graft scandals.

Wellian Wiranto, an economist from Singapore's OCBC Bank, pointed out that Yudhoyono was leaving the political stage at a time growth was slowing and huge, budget-sapping fuel subsidies were still in place.

"While his claim of relatively high economic growth is not false, it is a pity that he leaves the stage right when the economy is slowing, rather than on a high note", Wiranto told AFP.

Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, will take over from Yudhoyono on20 October. He still faces a court challenge from his rival for the presidency, Prabowo Subianto, but this is expected to fail.

Read more on:    susilo bambang yudhoyono  |  indonesia

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