IO – As I discussed in a previous column, democracies around the world are under serious threat. Backsliding in numerous countries is occurring at an increasingly alarming rate. Civil rights are being removed, the media is under attack, and freedom of expression is in danger, as well.
Equally sobering is the fact elections are being turned into circuses. Turkey, Russia, Egypt and Cambodia are contemporary examples where opposition figures are being intimidated, jailed and in some cases even murdered by the ruling elite to ensure they ‘win’ elections to stay in power.
Electoral fraud and manipulation is widespread, as well. Hackers for hire can enter voter registration databases and help their clients to alter, add or delete data. This enables a party or coalition of parties to obstruct voters from entering polling stations in opposition strongholds as a means of stealing elections.
The recent case of Cambridge Analytica and its shenanigans in the U.S. presidential race reveals yet another worrisome development: how big data firms can be used by unscrupulous parties to create smear campaigns, propaganda and fake news as a means of manipulating voter preferences.
So what about Indonesia? Media has portrayed past elections as a ‘celebration of democracy’. The sad truth is, there is little to celebrate—like in many other democracies today, our elections are subject to widespread cheating and manipulation.
Indonesians are still ignorant of the fact our democracy is being hijacked by the ruling elite. Political operators and election officials are, however, quite aware of what really happens during elections. There are mountains of unpublished audit trails and first-hand accounts of how Indonesia’s ruling parties and their coalition partners have, in fact, exploited the electoral process and machinery to cheat and steal in past elections.
There are numerous instances where security officials have been bribed to block voters from gaining access to polling stations in districts where opposition parties are popular. Dirty parties also frequently bribe election monitors working for opposition parties to leave polling stations during voting hours. This leaves the door wide open for dead and flying voters to enter polling stations and cast their choices for candidates on the ballots belonging to ruling coalition parties. And it also means there is ample opportunity for unethical officials to tamper with the ballots.
There is a high risk the upcoming 2018 and 2019 elections could be even dirtier. As we reported in last week’s Independent Observer, insider sources have revealed that Cambridge Analytica executives have been in talks with members of the ruling coalition. Given the extraordinary damage Cambridge Analytica exacted upon the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential elections, Indonesians should be outraged with the prospect of foreign blackhats being hired to manipulate our elections.
More leaks coming from our sources now reveal an even more disturbing story. According to these sources, there are on-going efforts by a foreign team of hackers to enter the e-KTP biometric database, a system that is owned by a private Indonesian company and provides data to the ministry of home affairs. If the database has already been hacked into is unknown, but if they have succeeded or will succeed in the future, then the potential consequences for the upcoming elections could be disastrous. By manipulating e-KTP data, hackers could alter scores of voter identities and hence assist unscrupulous parties to manipulate and tilt the elections on an unprecedented scale.
Given these risks now being placed at the front doorstep of Indonesia’s democracy, what should be done?
First and foremost, it is the responsibility of our president to display firm moral leadership and take action to ensure Cambridge Analytica is not engaged by members of the ruling coalition to play their digital trickery. Jokowi should also order immediate and credible investigations to discover what damage has been done, if any, to the integrity of the e-KTP biometric identification database and who is responsible for hiring the hackers.
If Jokowi only throws up his hands in protest about these brewing scandals but does nothing to take remedial action, or of he tries to attack the credibility of these stories, he should at least be aware his legitimacy is at risk, as well. He should only imagine what Indonesian voters would think about his presidency in the event Cambridge Analytica is secretively hired by the ruling coalition and the truth is eventually revealed to the public. He should also imagine the permanent damage that would be done to his legitimacy, and his legacy, if the e-KTP database system is compromised under his watch as president.
Finally, Indonesia’s elections matter not only to Indonesians. They should also matter for our friends and allies, especially the United States. There is a long tradition of America playing the role of being a guardian of democracy. Over the past two decades, Washington has praised Indonesia for its going down the path of democratization. Now Washington’s leadership should realize the challenges we are facing as a democracy and provide Indonesia with its expertise and technical assistance to ensure our future elections are fair.
future economic growth and its entry to the global economic stage.
During the 1980s, China began to expand in international trade and allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. The most noticeable symbols were the four Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which were created in 1980 – in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen and Shantou.
The SEZs were successful in attracting foreign capital, pioneering reform experiments and creating an export-oriented economy. In 1991, China only attracted US$4.37 billion in FDI. From then, the absolute size and proportion of FDI into China rose significantly, reaching US$126 billion in 2016.
Thereafter, China gradually opened up coastal and border cities, major cities in the hinterland, and finally the rest of China. This has attracted labour-intensive manufacturing industries from advanced economies to China. Today, the SEZ model has evolved to a new breed of 11 Free Trade Zones across the country, which now act as sandboxes for future reform on a national scale, in particular in services and innovation reform.
A key phase of reform sought to change the country’s economic system is improving the governance of State-Owned-Enterprises (SOEs), i n t r oducing a gradual liberalisation of prices and fiscal decentralisation and establishing a fully-fledged modern banking system.
SOE reform aimed for the enlargement of enterprise autonomy, reducing government intervention, creating market institutions, opening up more industrial sectors to competition from private enterprises and converting the economy from an administratively driven, planned economy to a price-driven market economy.
The process of SOE reform is still on-going. In addition, Beijing is continuing to streamline and modernise its state-owned sector and create conglomerates capable of competing globally. The reforms have involved the restructuring of SOEs through reorganizations and mergers, reductions in excess capacity and the relocation of workers.
In order to fulfil China’s commitment to the WTO to liberalise financial markets for foreign participation by the end of 2006, the Chinese government accelerated financial reforms at the end of 2003.4 The reforms focussed on the main areas of China’s financial services – banking, securities and insurance. This included diversifying banks’ equity structures, enhancing banks’ corporate governance, introducing a prudential regulatory regime and transforming state-owned banks into joint-stock banks. Key securities companies were restructured, whilst reforms in the insurance sector also progressed.
China has recognized the importance of a high-functioning financial system for improved allocation of resources within the economy. The government has instituted a number of reforms in recent years. Bank deposits and lending rates have now been fully liberalized. Commercial banks can now set these rates freely, though the PBoC still sets reference rates to guide banks. An explicit bank deposit insurance programme has been in operation since May 2015.
Another key phase of reform is focussing on what is known as China’s Going Out policy
Through a cautious and gradual approach over the past 40 years, Chinese authorities have been opening China’s capital account via tightly controlled programmes such as QDII/ QFII (Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor/Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor), and the recent Stock and Bond Connects to allow more foreign participation in China’s capital markets.
The country’s capital account is becoming increasingly open in de facto terms. China now has the second-largest equity market in the world today. From a total market capitalisation of US$513 billion in 2003, it has grown 17 times to US$8.7 trillion in October 2017. The country’s domestic bond market is now the third largest in the world.
Significant progress has already been made to internationalise the renminbi. Just over a decade ago, renminbi usage was largely confined to mainland China. Today, more than 10 per cent of China’s trade is settled in the currency. Today, various cross-border schemes allow foreign investors to buy stocks and bonds in mainland China.
The renminbi’s role as a reserve currency is also gradually appearing. The currency was formally included in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket on 1 October 2016, joining the US dollar, the euro, the yen and the pound.