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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        11 January 2011

Corruption, inflation on Yudhoyono's list

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Growing concern that inflation could dent the armor of what has been a resilient and robust national economy, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday issued 10 specific directives to guide the government's working program in 2011.

Speaking before district heads, cabinet ministers and other officials gathered at the Jakarta Convention Center for the National Working Meeting, Yudhoyono topped the list with the current spike in food and energy prices.

"Let us take measures to deal with the global food and energy price increases," he said.

"In the long run, we must have food self-sufficiency and energy security."

With 2011 already marked by concerns locally and worldwide over the rising cost of oil and food, the government will need to stabilize domestic prices through measures such as market operations ("operasi pasar") and fiscal incentives, Yudhoyono said.

During the meeting, which traditionally kicks off the agenda for the year, the president stated the government's economic targets for 2011 as 6.4 percent economic growth, 5.3 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment and a poverty rate between 11.5 and 12.5 percent.

In order to reach these targets, the president listed three further economic directives.

First, he said that it is imperative to manage state and regional budgets carefully, emphasizing correct subsidy levels and optimal and timely spending of the budget.

Yudhoyono also underlined the continued urgency of infrastructure development and electricity generation.

"If there's already a program, a plan, an allocation and the available workforce to build the infrastructure, then we cannot miss [the target]," he said.

Acknowledging the need for government-private partnerships and increased investment, the president instructed all government officials to create a hospitable investment climate.

The keys to achieving such a climate, he said, are easy, quick and inexpensive permits, legal certainty and the absence of regulatory conflicts between the central and local governments.

Turning to another perennial issue, the president also stressed the need to suppress corruption.

He singled out the tax office, procurements and regional elections as areas where graft is still rampant.

The president also took a tough stance on environmental issues, such as illegal mining and deforestation.

Yudhoyono also said he wanted to curb the practice of money politics by tightening the supervision and examination of campaign activities. Moreover, he said, he wanted the rising costs of running for office to be lowered without sacrificing the values of democracy.

He next turned to the welfare sector, urging better treatment for marginalized groups and victims of natural disasters, as well as better disaster preparedness.

Finally, he said, the government must provide better protection to migrant workers.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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