Sunday, September 26, 2010

How Indonesia overtook Nigeria

An interesting comparison between Indonesia and Nigeria in a personal account of his time in both countries by Peter Cunliffe-Jones here.  Both countries were created by European powers just over 100 years ago; both countries were rich in palm oil and in recent decades have amassed wealth from the discovery of oil and gas.  And yet, the developmental difference between the two is now stark.  For instance, in Indonesia, life expectancy is now 70; in Nigeria it is 47.

The former bureau chief in AFP's Lagos office and current Asia editor puts the difference in development down to stronger resistance by Indonesians to those in power.  This may certainly be part of the explanation.  However, I'd also suggest that a different model of corruption has long been in place in Indonesia.  Government contracts have long been awarded on the basis of performance in the South-East Asian country, whereas in Nigeria, performance has clearly not often been a de facto requirement.  In Nigeria, corruption was non-productive and cascades down to every level of bureaucracy; in Indonesia, there has long been bottom-up pressure and a circumscribed context for corrupt practices.  In a way, it comes down to the prevailing format for commercial contracts and the negotiating power of government buyers.  

There are other differences too to take into account.  While Indonesia only had one dominant military dictator, the Nigerian military since Independence has been multipolar in terms of its power bases, hence the number of military coups, which are now firmly a part of Nigeria's history.  

A final obvious difference to mention is of course the predominantly Muslim character of Indonesia, which offers a unifying context for development.  I'm surprised that Cunliffe-Jones doesn't mention this.

Perhaps, in the final analysis, the difference in models of corruption and commercial contracts boils down to a stronger civil society in the archipelago state.  In which case, the lesson Nigeria can learn from Indonesia is the importance of building up a healthy civil society, which includes non-governmental organisations, the media and religious organisations.  The work is still all ahead..


CodLiverOil 4:49 pm  

There are a few other things to mention.
1) Indonesia is definitely a predominantly Islamic state, but yet there is an official umbrella to recognise and embrace other faiths defined in the credo of pancasila (forgive my spelling).

2) If Nigeria was as physically fragmented as Indonesia, with the variety of landscapes and peoples that Indonesia has, Nigeria would have dissolved a long time ago (Indonesia is an island archipelago consisting of thousands of islands). Yet some people (in Nigeria) still insist on disintegration into complete oblivion. If Indonesia had fragmented, it would not have been able to make the strides it has today, but that is another argument for another time.

3) Indonesians are naturally a very modest people. The physical resources of Indonesia far outstrip that of Nigeria, yet they remain very humble. I didn't know this, until a school mate, (by the name of Didi (he's an Indonesian and highly intelligent) pointed this out to me. Compare this with Nigeria's relatively indecent proclamation to have 'significant' oil and gas deposits, (the nation's only claim to global significance).

4) Indonesia is in a very challenging physical setting, despite the frequent natural disasters that occur. They are able to re-establish themselves to propel their economy into the top 20 largest economies, and they have barely tapped their enormous physical and human potential. If one natural disaster of the magnitude that affected Indonesia befell Nigeria, could Nigeria manage? Do emergency services exist beyond a paragraph on a page? Does the government believe in disaster preparation and planning?

5) The Indonesian government has shown that it can tackle the prickly problem of ethnic and religious strife. Witness the apparent calm that has returned to the Maluku islands between Christians and Muslims. Compare that with Nigeria's failure to tackle the crisis in Plateau state. The only remaining blemish on Indonesia is the treatment of the Melanesians of the province of Papua (who share more in common with their brothers in neighbouring Papua New Guinea).

Indonesia is no paradise, their governments are flawed, but they do know the value of development and are thinking of the future of their country, and are making huge strides towards a brighter future. They are not totally divorced from the society at large. The same can't be said of Nigeria.

AINO,  5:16 pm  

i don't know, jeremy. you make valid points, but the average nigerian has definitely achieved pathologic dephts of complacency. the struggle has no vision; one just needs to get through the day. everything is in god's hands, and people are waiting to be saved. people literally shrug their shoulders and accept the status quo. but you are right in your statement regarding a lack of unity; that alone has been a major obstacle. and another thing i wonder: are there enough numbers of nigerians who want change?

CodLiverOil 5:59 pm  

Professor Utomi has eluded to what I was saying previously

1) Nigeria has problems - true. The problems of Indonesia are far more extensive and complex, yet they are able to make Indonesia a success.

Click here

2) Professor Utomi, also attributes the stagnation/ regression to irresponsible elite (I would even go onto say, one sector of society can not be singled-out, the nation on the whole is responsible.)

Click here

yinka,  11:11 pm  

Perhaps throwing in a third country into the fold, like the oil-rich yet impoverished Angola, could help to draw clearer conclusions.

CodLiverOil 5:58 pm  

I don't see the comparison, other than the government of Angola is mismanaging it's considerable wealth.

Angola had to fight the Portuguese for independence, then they experienced an extremely long civil war from 1975 - 2002 (27 years).

Click here

I don't see the comparison with Nigeria's civil war that lasted 3 years? By any reckoning 27 years is a lot longer than 3. The British were not driven out of Nigeria by force of arms, they left voluntarily.

I urge you read what Professor Utomi said, he tells it, like it is.

Click here

Here is a quote from the man.
"...Now, when you begin to show the average Nigerian that the quality of life in Nigeria is worse than in Benin Republic and that their state of well-being is much much worse than in ostensibly poorer Ghana, then many of our people will begin to see more clearly what our problem really is..."

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