The talking is over; It's time to put our shoulders to the wheel

Debnath Guharoy, Consultant

The response to the most recent cabinet reshuffle is a good indicator of the national mood. "The cabinet reshuffle by the President was a positive step that will enhance the performance of the government," said 77 percent of the population.

It is obvious that the President continues to enjoy a level of popular support much higher than the leaders of neighboring Australia and New Zealand.

Of the 23 percent of the population who disagreed, 61 percent were male. Age had no noticeable bearing on the responses. Of the overwhelming majority who agreed, 53 percent of the respondents were female, 47 percent were male.

The fact that he is more popular among the ladies than he is with men shouldn't have an impact on any decisions anyone may wish to take in the year ahead.

The special poll was conducted recently among 1,740 respondents across the country, in the month following the reshuffle. In conjunction with Roy Morgan Single Source, the country's largest syndicated survey with over 27,000 Indonesian respondents annually, the poll is projected to reflect 90 percent of the population over the age of 14.

That is a universe of 140 million people. The results are updated every 90 days.

There is a bank of goodwill that still remains for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that can be exploited for the national good. A budget that has focussed on job creation and poverty alleviation has put the essential priorities where they should be, at the top of the nation's list of "Things to do".

That it is proposing to do so by diverting the dividends of an economy charging ahead at over 6 percent growth in GDP, as well as reductions in bureaucratic waste, warrants the support of every well-wisher.

The pessimists among us will question the motives and point to the lessons learned in other democracies of the developing world. They will tell you that voting power lies more in the hands of the "have-nots" rather than the "haves", so political survival rather than altruism is the driving force.

With patience in short supply among the underprivileged, most governments in power rarely get a third term, a second if they're lucky. The short-term motivation hampers long-term planning, essential for addressing key national problems that cannot be solved in a four or five year term in a developing country.

Everybody on all sides of the political divide has had an opportunity to express their views on the pros and cons of the 2008 budget. Despite the track record of 2006 and the year so far, the critics have accused the government of optimism, not much else. Most businesses thrive on optimism, especially when there is good reason to be enthusiastic.

Now is a good time for enterprises big and small to look to the future with renewed vigor.

If the government is focussed on creating more jobs and putting more money in the hands of more people, all businesses involved with mass consumer products and services stand to gain. All the more reason to support the 2008 budget, not just with words but also with action.

While the consumer economy has been a major contributor to growth, the spurt in gross domestic product in recent years has received a major boost from the export of natural resources.

Due to the nature of those businesses, there has been no corresponding spurt in employment. In fact, 2006 saw an upward surge in the demand for jobs, particularly full-time jobs, indicating an increase in the rich-poor gap.

New wealth created remained largely in the hands of the privileged few.

The government's focus on infrastructure development in 2008 will not only create more jobs in the near term, it will literally pave the way for more businesses to flourish around the country in the longer term.

Private and public enterprises can now put their shoulders to the wheel, with confidence. If every business, big and small, pledges to add more new jobs to their workforce, in tandem with revenue growth targets for 2008, the chances of meeting national objectives sooner will improve dramatically.

The day will come when it will be fashionable among businessmen and executives to flaunt annual growth in wages and head counts, not just profits.

Until that day dawns, the alleviation of poverty will primarily remain the responsibility of NGOs and politicians, not the nation as a whole. Responsible businesses can actively participate in fighting the good fight, not just exploit the underprivileged of this developing economy.

The writer can be contacted at
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