Indonesia: Vengeance with a Smile

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Suharto had not lost control at all. That night he dispatched three generals to Bogor to advise the Bung that the army could no longer guarantee his safety from the mobs—unless he turned over emergency powers to Suharto. Finally convinced that he was in danger, Sukarno signed a decree authorizing Suharto to take, on behalf of the President, "all necessary measures for the security and tranquillity as well as the stability of the government."

The President's Name. That was all Suharto needed. On behalf of the President, he banned the P.K.I, and arrested Subandrio. In the name of the President, he also disbanded the presidential guard, installed his own troops to keep the President a virtual prisoner and denied him the right to speak in public without prior military consent. However, he rejected repeated student demands that Sukarno be fired alto gether. The Bung still had a strong following in Java, which would make such a step far too risky. Besides, said a fellow officer, "how could we write in our history books that the country's only President was bad?"

With victory, Suharto inherited problems as vast and unmanageable as the nation of 3,000 islands he now has to control. One basic headache is transportation. After years of neglect, the roads are shockingly potholed, and many are simply impassable. In Java, road crews never bother to fill a hole until it becomes an unmistakable axle smashing hazard. In Sumatra, the holes are so large that as many as five palm logs must be dumped into them before even a Jeep can get through.

Museum Pieces. Indonesia's railroads are creaking and unreliable. Most of the engines are so ancient that the government is trying to sell them back to Germany's Krupp, their manufacturer, as museum pieces.

More serious is the problem of regionalism. Many of the islands resent the fact that Java holds most of the political control. In the 21 years since independence, Djakarta has had to put down at least six separatist revolts.

The greatest problem of all—and the one that Suharto is most immediately concerned about—is Indonesia's shattered economy—if it can be called an economy. On the books, Indonesia went bankrupt years ago. It owes $2.4 billion to foreign creditors, and its exports bring in nowhere nearly enough money even to meet the interest payments. It has no foreign currency reserves, almost no foreign credit. The rupiah is literally not worth the paper it is printed on. The cost of living quintupled during the first six months of this year, and there is little hope of stopping its rise. No one knows how many people are on the government payroll, but the estimates range from less than 2,000,000 to more than 5,000,000—not including the army's 500,000 men. Since for all practical purposes there is no income tax (all payments are voluntary), and since the government receives little revenue of any kind, it is forced to print almost all the money it needs.

Four Machines, Four Crews. The lack of foreign currency has left Indonesia's industrial plant in a shambles. There is no money to import either the spare parts or the raw materials necessary to keep its antiquated machines running. Indonesian industry currently runs at 30% of normal production.

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