Former Minister of Economic Affairs of Indonesia
If I had to start over, I would once again enrol as a student at Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH), the precursor of Erasmus School of Economics.
Since the birth of the Republic of Indonesia, our Cabinet has always included an alumnus of Erasmus School of Economics. Starting with Mohammad Hatta, who even as a student already played a very active role in our struggle for independence – indeed, he was our nation’s first Vice-President. Together with Ir. Sukarno, Hatta was later recognised as one of the founders and proclamators of the independent Republic of Indonesia. Hatta graduated from the Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool – as Erasmus School of Economics was then called – on 5 July 1932. On 24 May 2014, Professor Dr Wim Lammerts van Bueren visited Hatta’s two daughters and son-in-law in the house where Hatta had always lived, to present a framed photograph of the Campus’s new student housing building for international students, the Hatta Building. They were moved by the occasion.
After Hatta, the Cabinet included the following Rotterdam-educated economists: Jusuf Muda Dalam served as Governor of the Indonesian central bank, followed by Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo as Minister of Trade and Minister of Finance. Radius Prawiro’s first ministerial-level appointment was President of the Court of Audit. He went on to serve as Governor of the Bank Indonesia (the central bank), Minister of Trade, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry. Radius called back Arifin Siregar from New York to serve in the Cabinet as Governor of the Central Bank, Minister of Trade and Ambassador in Washington DC. I started my career in politics as one of the Chairmen of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). I became a member of parliament in 1999, while simultaneously serving as the Vice-President of the People’s Congress. After this, President Abdurrachman Wahid appointed me as Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry. President Megawati Sukarnoputri subsequently installed me as the Minister of National Development Planning.
For a long time, the leaders of Indonesia’s central banks were predominantly Erasmus School of Economics alumni, while economic policy during the 32-year Suharto administration was mainly determined by graduates of the University of California in Berkeley. Off the record, you would hear: “The Berkeley Mafia has the government, while the Rotterdam Mafia has the money.” At which point, Arifin would immediately correct the term ‘Rotterdam Mafia’ to ‘Rotterdam Angels’.
It goes without saying that over the course of my career, the knowledge and wisdom I acquired in Erasmus School of Economics has proven of indispensable value. Every time I am confronted with a problem that needs to be resolved, my mind goes back to the Erasmus School of Economics professor relevant to the issue at hand.
My membership of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps (RSC) introduced me to Western culture and value systems. As someone who didn’t speak a word of Dutch when he arrived in Rotterdam, joining the RSC proved an excellent decision.
Professor Wisselink was a fount of practical wisdom, starting his first lecture with the words: “Ladies and Gentlemen, there is nothing new under the sun. The things you will be learning in the years ahead are simple truths, wrapped in complicated phrases and formulas in order to come across as science.” In addition, he noted that “a gentleman’s agreement is an agreement to the detriment of the gentleman in question.”
Last but least, I am grateful for the privilege of participating in the establishment and management of the Witteveen-Dekker Indonesian Scholarship Foundation. This foundation has issued a number of scholarships to promising Indonesian students, enabling them to embark on a very impressive career.