(Straits Times Press)

Vasuki Shastry brings an unusual perspective to the 1997 economic crisis that almost brought Indonesia undone – and certainly did that to its longstanding leader Soeharto (see On the Horizon below). He was a newspaper reporter during the crisis but then spent many years afterwards as an International Monetary Fund (IMF) official helping explain the agency’s tough approach, which it then partly recanted. This book provides a timely insiders’ account of the crisis and its aftermath 20 years on when there is some new debate about how much Indonesia has really moved on from the Soeharto system. Shastry says instead that the IMF’s decision to hold its huge annual meeting in Indonesia later this year will underline how far Indonesia has come from the turmoil of 1997-8. He argues that Indonesia could have descended into chaos and dismemberment in 1998 but escaped this fate “due to a diligent and committed political leadership” deep in its ruling elite. He sees incumbent President Joko Widodo as part of this leadership. But he also argues that Indonesia benefits from its deeply embedded ethnic Chinese community and a global diaspora of people who typically want to return home. He characterises the long-term challenges that will decide the country’s future as the three Cs: combatting climate change, controlling corruption and fostering an inclusive culture.


Credit: Greg Earl, Asia Briefing, May 2018 Published by Asia Society Australia