JAKARTA, Indonesia – In his final state of the nation address on Friday, August 15, outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono trumpeted achievements over the past decade – which saw Indonesia transform into a stable democracy with strong economic growth – but apologized as well for shortcomings.
“After 69 years of independence, I’m sure our founding fathers would be grateful and happy to see the transformation of the Indonesian nation in the 21st century,” Yudhoyono said in the speech delivered before Parliament. Indonesia marks its 69th Independence Day on Sunday, August 17.
The outgoing president touted how Indonesia has emerged as a middle-income country with the 16th largest economy in the world and the largest middle class in Southeast Asia.
Yudhoyono became the first democratically elected Indonesian president in 2004, following 6 years that saw 3 different presidents after the fall of Suharto in 1998.
Under him, Indonesia’s economy stabilized and achieved one of the strongest growth rates in the world, peaking at 6.5% in 2011. That growth, however, has slowed down, with its 5.12% year-on-figure in the second quarter of 2014 the slowest since the last quarter of 2009.
Poverty rates have also steadily declined over the years. Yudhoyono cited statistics that show those who live below the poverty line declined from 32 million in 2009 – or 14% of the population – to 28 million as of March 2014. However, he leaves behind an unsustainable subsidy policy and a worrying budget deficit that economists say would be the first major issue to confront Indonesia’s incoming president.
While he initially campaigned on an anti-corruption agenda, and generally allowed Indonesia’s powerful Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to operate independently, Yudhoyono ends his term with members of his party, the Democratic Party, jailed for a massive corruption scandal. Worse, his youngest son, Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, was implicated on Thursday, August 14, by a witness in the corruption trial of former Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum.
“It is a great honor for me to have become the president of Indonesia. I am a child of ordinary people, an ordinary child from Pacitan, who later became a soldier, a minister and was then elected to lead the nation of Indonesia. To serve as president in a political landscape where all leaders have their own mandate, in a democracy of 240 million, is a learning process that will never end,” a visbly emotional Yudhoyono said towards the end of his speech.
“Certainly, in 10 years, I have made a lot of mistakes and oversights in carrying out my duties. From the bottom of my heart, I ask forgiveness for all those shortcomings and oversights. Although I always want to do my best, I am still human.”
Yudhoyono will step down on October 20 after 10 years in office and will be replaced by Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, unless Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rules otherwise. Losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has challenged the results of the highly divisive July 9 presidential election, and a verdict is expected on August 21.
“The most important point [of the speech] was when President Yudhoyono said he is ready to help the president-elect. This means the transition process will be smooth. Problems, both half-finished and finished, can be handed over to the president-elect for a smooth transition process,” Jokowi told reporters after the speech.
– with reports from Zul Sikumbang and ATA/Rappler.com
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