Boediono: Indonesia is in need of major reforms
Indonesia still has a long way to go before the country can truly flourish, was the message given by Indonesian Vice President Boediono during his visit to Leiden University on 26 March. He viewed collections in the University Library and the Hortus, and was presented with the William of Orange medal for his efforts for equal rights.
Structural reforms needed
The Vice President gave a frank analysis of the situation in his country. The Indonesian press was present, with a camera team and journalists from radio and national newspapers. Indonesia is the largest economy in South-East Asia and has experienced strong growth in the past decade. Much progress has been made, but major reforms are still needed, in Boediono's opinion. 'Will we succeed, or fail?' he wondered. He believes the answer rests on three crucial factors: infrastructure, human capital and institutions. All three are still faltering. The country has to invest urgently in energy, transport, communications, water and sanitation.
Boediono stressed the importance of education: ‘Education is the key.’ There are big differences in quality between schools and teachers, he went on. The government is already improving education with salary injections, teacher programmes and new curricula. However, the economic transformation can only be sustained if political parties, bureaucracy and the legal system are also reformed. Not only that, Boediono stressed, we need a strong ‘civil society’ and media that will make sure the public is well informed.
After the talk, Leiden PhD and master's students posed some critical questions. 'Is Indonesian democracy only for the rich?' asked Nanda Ernanda. Candidates need a lot of money to be able to run their campaign, which can easily give rise to corruption. Boediono acknowledged the problem but believes that the tide is turning. Running a campaign has, in his view, become easier thanks to the use of social media. Ingrid Nabubhoga wanted to know why the government doesn't do more to protect minorities against Islamic violence. 'We have done what we could legally do, but maybe that is not enough.' It goes further than that, he commented. What is needed is a cultural change across the whole society: ‘Soft power always prevails over hard power.’ This comment met with applause from the audience.
William of Orange medal
'Does Indonesia regard the Netherlands as a gateway to Europe?' asked Ashwin Ramjiawan. ‘Yes, it does, and that is because of our shared history. The reverse is also true: the Netherlands in turn sees us as a gateway to Asia.' After answering these questions, Boediono was presented with the William of Orange medal by Rector Carel Stolker. Stolker praised Boediono’s contribution to Indonesian democracy and his striving for social and political equality in his country. He also applauded Boediono's ability to bridge the gap between scientific insights and the practice of government. The University has previously awarded the William of Orange medal to such prominent figures as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Rare collection of Indonesian history
Boediono started the day with a visit to the Leiden University Library, which will shortly house the world's largest collection on Indonesia. In the Special Collections reading room he viewed rare books, drawings, photos, maps and manuscripts by prominent figures from Indonesian history and science. The Vice President was evidently impressed. The head of the Library, Kurt de Belder explained that, besides the existing collections, Leiden recently took over the collection of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and that later this year the collections of the Royal Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) will also be transferred to the University Library. Most of the collection will be digitised. As a taster of what is to come, De Belder showed Boediono a digital map of his birthplace.
Tour of the Hortus
The Vice President was then given a tour of the Hortus botanicus by the Director of the Hortus, Paul Keßler. They visited the giant Arum lily and flesh-eating plants and orchids that were originally found only in Indonesia, and talked about the historic bond that the Leiden Hortus has with the botanical garden in Bogor. Both gardens continue to exchange seeds and are organising joint commemorative activities in 2015 and 2017.
First Indonesian PhD
At the end of his visit, Boediono unveiled in the Academy Building a bust of Indonesian researcher and governor Hoesein Djajadiningrat, created by sculptor Aart Schonk. Djajadiningrat was the first Indonesian to carry out PhD research in Leiden, and obtained his PhD with honours in 1913. His youngest son was present at the unveiling and afterwards spoke with the Vice President.
Boediono referred to the visit by a delegation from Leiden University earlier this year to universities in Jakarta and Yogyakarta to strengthen collaboration in teaching and research. 'Leiden University remains one of the world's most important research centres on Indonesia. With the take-over of the KITLV, Leiden will have a permanent presence in Jakarta. Ik hope that this is a step on the way to further fruitful collaboration.'The first step on that path was taken straight away: the Rector of the university in Jogjakarta signed an agreement with Leiden for a joint PhD programme in History.
(26 March 2014)
The Asian Challenge is one of the six themes for research at Leiden University.