Analyze this – is Indonesia a failed state?


Are we living in a failed state? With all the topsy-turvydom we are being served, quotidian, throughout the mass media, ranging from riotous demonstrations, mob-ruled brawls, shameless deeds on corruption, acts of religious intolerance and pervert racism, our relatively unstable food sovereignty, political catfights, and still a very long list to go, we could have concluded that the question actually provided a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.

A piece of news, afterwards, came as a shockwave for our country’s officials. Or perhaps, instead, it has been our nation’s characteristic to have always rebutted and dismissed all the sombre criticism originating from other nations. As though innocent, the parliament simply put the blame on Corruption Eradication Commission (CEC) (Bahasa Indonesia). On the other hand, some others pointed out Indonesia’s economic success and significant public service reforms (Bahasa Indonesia) in recent years. Attempting to provoke public attention, some mass media outlets even openly discredited government in their so-called ‘uncompromising failure’ in protecting its own citizens, in their editorials. Thus, who should we really put our trust on? The officials, with a very high probability that they never (and won’t ever) mention their miscarriages, or the opposition, who seemingly knows nothing but all the bad things about the current government, or the mass media, openly backed-up by conglomerates?

Fund For Peace (FFP), a non-profit organization dedicated to global affairs and international security analysis based in Washington D.C., was where the startle began. It placed Indonesia on 63rd rank (those graded 1st to 60th are categorized as ‘failed states’) out of 178 in the annual Failed States Index list this year. In the researchers’ perspective, this was a slight downgrade, given that the country was once one seat above its current position in 2011. Having glanced at the number, we could precinctly conclude that Indonesia is not a ‘failed state’ after all, but rather one on ‘warning’ list. But seeing our state obtaining almost the similar red scores as Gambia and Fiji did (Fiji had been severely degraded due to its political instability, and frequent internal conflicts between race-based factions) was one worth reminding. Despite the economic bustle, Indonesians felt a high sense of insecurity, either political or social, in their daily lives.

Let us take a look at how researchers in FFP assessed Indonesia, based on 12 indicators used.

There were 6 of those where the government was, as the social scientists said, considered to have ‘moderately improved’, most of which were related to economic growth.

  1. Refugees & IDPs (as summarized in the report, a large number of East Timorese refugees had repatriated. Nevertheless, there were ongoing conflicts in both Maluku and East Java)
  2. Human flight (what they refer to as ‘brain drain’, an emigration of professionals, intellectuals, and political dissidents. As put in their statistics, the outflow is steadily decreasing, but compared to many other nations, Indonesia’s one is still relatively weak)
  3. Uneven development (thanks to the implementation of decentralization and improving economic stability, social inequality, as they outlined, had gradually decreased. On the contrary, poverty remains high)
  4. Poverty and decline (As many as 100 million Indonesians have ‘upgraded’ themselves into middle class. Minimizing poverty, however, remains government’s long-term challenge)
  5. Public services (bureaucracy, as they pointed out, has been significantly reformed. Transparency International rated Indonesia on 100th position in its Corruption Perception Index in 2011, up 10 numbers compared to that in 2010. Bribery and graft, on the other hand, remain commonplace)
  6. External Intervention (International agencies have much more confidence in Indonesia than they used to in the prior decade. For instance, World Bank had pledged further financial assistance for 19 of Indonesia’s economic projects in the near future)

Add 3 more factors where government’s performance underwent little or no changes at all.

  1. Legitimacy of the state (it could be inferred that too many instances had occurred where state was seemingly ‘nonexistent’. Majority of the public loses confidence in state’s ability to protect them in case the worst scenarios happen. In short, justice is no longer served, but reserved)
  2. Security apparatus (In the report, researchers mentioned Law of State Intelligence as their main analysis. The policy, aimed to combat terrorism and other state-threatening crimes, as of their views, is flawed, as it lacks coordination between judiciary and legislative branches, and is vulnerable to power abuse by military intelligence)
  3. Factionalized elite (that is, political rivalry. We have seen those all the time in TVs, like a never-ending family-conflict-themed TV serial, and we don’t have to include it further here anymore)

And the last 3 blackspots where Indonesia is ‘actually’ deteriorating.

  1. Demographic pressures (the example is not quoted in the report, but given Family Coordination Board’s little success in reintroducing the widely-acclaimed 2-children-only policy once in its heyday during Soeharto’s era, Indonesia’s population is expected to double to between 450 and 500 million in no more than 40 or 50 years. Which means providing 200 million new human beings with adequate food, health, and housing, but with inadequate state funding)
  2. Group grievance (that is, the rate of group violence. Either religiously or ethnically motivated, the occurrence is on the rise. The researchers quoted examples from Muslim-Christian conflicts in Maluku and Muslim-Ahmadiyya melee conducted by firebrand extremists in West Java as their main reference)
  3. Human rights (And the academicists, as has always been whenever Indonesia is mentioned, places Papua as their utmost priority. But what primarily concerns them, of another similar importance, is their partial unwillingness in reopening the investigation of human rights abuses in the past.)

In conclusion, when it comes to reporting, it may be so sagacious that we use no ‘blind-men-and-the-elephant parable’ while assessing this evaluation.