Democracy and Growth Can Coexist

26 April, 2013 | Source: The Jakarta Globe

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says democracy and economic growth can work hand-in-hand, despite criticisms that the two are mutually exclusive.

“There was a time decades ago when Indonesians felt that we had to choose between two critical objectives, either a lot of democracy but little economic growth or a lot of economic growth but little political freedom,” Yudhoyono said in Singapore during a ceremony at Nanyang Technological University, where he received an honorary doctorate.

He explained that in Indonesia’s case, such a decision was not necessary, adding that Indonesia’s economy was growing steadily at a rate of at least 6 percent and public participation in the country’s national and local elections was high.

“We have become a solid democracy with three periodic elections in 1999, 2004 and 2009, while at the same time reaching high economic growth of around 6 percent,” Yudhoyono said. “Thus we have demonstrated that democracy and economic growth can be mutually reinforcing.”

The president also stressed the central government’s efforts to promote a resilient and vibrant domestic market, which contributes to strong economic growth.

“I am pleased that these strategies have proven effective in keeping the Indonesian economy afloat in the midst of a global economic slowdown,” he said.

Yudhoyono also tackled the global perception that Islam and democracy could not coexist. The president said that he believed Indonesia was a good example of how democracy, modernization and Islam worked hand-in-hand.

“Muslims in Indonesia are very comfortable with democracy and with modernity. Thus, the Indonesian democracy may well offer valuable lessons to Arab Spring countries who are now facing similar challenges,” the president said, adding that the country’s Islamic political parties played a significant role in promoting democracy.

“Yes, Islamic political parties at some point proliferated, but they have also become staunch defenders of our democracy and our religious freedom.”

Yudhoyono’s honorary degree recognizes the close ties he has developed among various Singapore-Indonesia think tanks and defense institutions, including his strong links to the university.

Both of his sons, Agus Harimurti and Edhie Baskoro, also earned their masters’ degrees from Nanyang Technological University.


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