Lessons from Living Dangerously: Indonesia's Fight out of Fragility


Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 03 August 2010


Seminar Room B, Coombs Building, Fellows Road, ANU


Satish Chand, Centre for Global Development


Sandra Zec
Indonesia under President Suharto is a rare case of a nation that found its way out of state fragility. In less than half a century, Indonesia transited from ‘living dangerously’ at the edge of civil war to being a robust democracy. This paper presents an analytical narrative to caricature the mechanisms underscoring this transition and the policy lessons emanating from the experience. Among the main lessons are: (i) an initial strengthening of the coercive capacities of the state elevated the regime in office to a secure position; (ii) the regime’s confidence in its authority within a contestable environment provided an incentive for fostering investment and income growth; and, (iii) the regime legitimized its rule by improving access to basic services. The robustness of these conclusions is tested with a counter narrative of the Philippines under President Marcos. Despite the many similarities between Indonesia and the Philippines, the dynamics of state fragility between the two were very different. This difference in outcomes both confirms the analytical narrative of the political and economic dynamics achieved by Suharto, and provides insights on state building mechanisms in general.

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