Suharto's bad idea

January 27, 1998

IN JAKARTA, the dictator Suharto announced his candidacy for a seventh five-year term as Indonesia's president. In response, the sunken rupiah has plunged even deeper into worthlessness.

Worse, the 76-year-old and ailing Suharto hinted his vice president and heir would be his longtime pal and author of grandiose industrial projects bankrupting the country, B. J. Habibie, the technology minister. At least it was not one of the six Suharto children whose corrupt grip on the economy prevents a level playing field for real entrepreneurs.

The $43 billion International Monetary Fund bailout agreed to in October is not working, not least because Mr. Suharto undermined it before capsizing before IMF demands, and because long-term lenders would not risk more on his continued rule.

The market is telling Mr. Suharto to use the March presidential election by a 1,000-member consultative assembly to start an evolution toward an open and democratic society and economy. When the market talks, the undisputed ruler of the giant country ought to listen.

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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