Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Transparency International release scores - Timor 127th least corrupt, Indonesia 110

Transparency International just released their 2010 Corruptions Perceptions Index, available at Timor-Leste scored 2.5 (out of 10), ranking 127th least corrupt country among 178 countries -- in other words, worse than more than 2/3 of the countries rated. In the Asia-Pacific region, TL is 24th out of 34 countries, worse than Indonesia (110th, 2.8 compared to 111th, 2.8 in the 2009 survey), Thailand, Mongolia, and Vietnam, among others.

For Timor-Leste, this is a slight improvement over 2009, when its score was 2.2, ranking 146 of 180 countries worldwide, and 28th of 33 in Asia-Pacific. In 2008, its score was also 2.2 (145th/180). In 2007, it scored  2.6 (123th/180), better than this year. 

In other recent indexes: 

Global Hunger Index

Timor-Leste is "among the countries with hunger levels considerably higher than their GNI [Gross National Income] per capita would suggest" according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index (GHI). It is one of four countries (the others are Bangladesh, India and Yemen) which have "the highest prevalence of underweight in children under five -- "more than 40 percent." 23% of the population is under-nourished.Timor-Leste's GHI of 25.6 is considered "alarming"  and is the highest of any country in South and Southeast Asia, and ranks 71 of the 84 countries ranked globally. The ranking does not include many countries where hunger is not a serious problem. The previous calculation of the GHI was in 1990, and Timor-Leste was not included. Indonesia is rated "serious" ranking 36 with a score of 13.2 - compared to 19.5 in 1990. 16% of its population was malnourished.

Open Budget Index

On the International Budget Partnership's Open Budget Index 2010, Timor-Leste scored 34 out of 100, characterized as "Provides minimal information to the public in its budget documents during the year." (Timor's country data sheet is here.). TL ranks fifth among the seven Southeast Asian countries rated, better than Vietnam and Cambodia but worse than Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. T-L's score of 34 is less than the global average of 42.  It ranks 62nd best of the 93 countries rated. This is the first time Timor-Leste has been included in the OBI. Indonesia ranked 39th, scoring 51, down from 54 in 2008. Indonesia's 2010 country data sheet is here.

UPDATE: added missing data on Indonesia for previous year, also some copy-editing and an added link.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Timor census shows slower than predicted population growth

On October 20, the government of Timor-Leste announced preliminary results of the recently-completed census with a total population of Timor-Leste is 1,066,582.
This number represents a 2.41 per cent annual population growth since the last census was undertaken, in 2004. The growth has been significantly slower than what was projected back in 2004 (3.2% per year) but is still the highest in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region.
Another noteworthy finding among the preliminary census results is that the population of the district of Dili has grown by a third, from 175,730 to 241,331, since 2004. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority, 70.4%, of the Timorese people still lives in rural areas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Suharto's No Hero

Three short years after his death, Indonesia's dictator Suharto has been nominated to a shortlist to be designated a "National Hero." The final decision rests with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. and any honors will likely be announced on November 10, Heroes’ Day. President Obama is scheduled to visit Indonesia around that date.

After Suharto died in January 2008, ETAN wrote:
Indonesia's former dictator General Suharto has died in bed and not in jail, escaping justice for his numerous crimes in East Timor and throughout the Indonesian archipelago. One of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, his death tolls still shock...
We cannot forget that the United States government consistently supported Suharto and his regime. As the corpses piled up after his coup and darkness descended on Indonesia, his cheerleaders in the U.S. welcomed the "gleam of light in Asia." In the pursuit of realpolitik, U.S. administration after administration, fully aware of his many crimes, provided military assistance and hardware, training and equipping Suharto's killers. The Indonesian dictator sought and received U.S. approval before he launched his invasion of East Timor; ninety percent of the weapons used in this illegal attack came from the U.S.  
Indonesia's human rights, anti-corruption and other activists are opposed. Agence France Presse quotes human rights activist Raharjo Waluyo Jati,
"He caused so much suffering. So many activists were arrested, detained, punished and some even killed without trial during his rule. All the mess Indonesia is in now, with problems of corruption and human rights violations, were his doing. He built this chaos."
We hope Indonesian authorities do not take their clue from the appalling U.S.'s condolence statement on Suharto's death by now departed Ambassador Cameron Hume. He observed that while "there may be some controversy over his legacy" Suharto oversaw "a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development." 

At the time, we expressed our dismay that the "condolence statement on behalf of the U.S. government fails to even acknowledge the extraordinary crimes of this brutal and corrupt dictator" or the U.S. role in arming and supporting the regime.

President Obama once understood this. In his book The Audacity of Hope,  Obama wrote that "for the past sixty years the fate of [Indonesia] has been directly tied to U.S. foreign policy," a policy which included "the tolerance and occasional encouragement of tyranny, corruption, and environmental degradation when it served our interests." In Dreams from My Father, he described Suharto's seizure of power: "The death toll was anybody's guess: a few hundred thousand, maybe, half a million. Even the smart guys at the [CIA] had lost count." These "smart guys" had, of course, encouraged and assisted in the coup. 

Whether or not the corrupt or brutal dictator receives the posthumous honor, we urge President Obama to apologize to the people of Indonesia and East Timor for the U.S. role in their suffering during the Suharto years and to offer his condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago.