Status

Sudah sepantasnya kita dekat dengan Al-Qur’an dan memahami isinya. Al-Qur’an adalah the ultimate guidance in our life. Semoga kita bisa konsisten mempelajari dan mengamalkannya.

Islam, Al-Qur’an and Justice

Alhamdulillah,, all praises and thanks belong to Allah. Alhamdulillah, for hidayatul islam that He has given to us. I am very overwhelmed by the “amazingness” of Al-Qur’an. Even word by word in the Al-Qur’an was revealed with certain meaning and reason behind it. It contains a lot of lesson and obviously guidance for all of us. I strongly encourage all of us to dive deeper to Al-Qur’an tafsir. I think, one way to do that is to watch the Qur’an from Cover to Cover program by Ustadz Nouman Ali Khan here: http://www.bayyinah.tv/sp/9942-bayyinah-tv (paid subscription though, but obviously really worth it).

Listening to the tafsir, there’s one thing that ‘stuck’ in my head, which is the importance of justice in Islam. Allah sent down Islam to us as the guidance so that we can perform our role, as alkhalifatu fil ardh, with justice. The absence of Islamic or Qur’anic value application in our life, I believe, has contributed to the increasing injustice practices in our society.

The greedy bankers in UK, for example, who manipulated the interest rate (LIBOR) which is referred worldwide, is an obvious act of injustice. The corrupt practice in government procurement is another blunt example. Hopefully, soon enough, we’ll be able to play a greater role in removing these injustice practices in our society.

Status

Innovation doesn’t necessarily happen only in science and technology field. Innovation can be done in many areas of our life. It could be as simple as a mother who innovate in the dinner menu. World will (only) be a better place with innovation. So, what innovation would you embark on?

Towards a developed country

Government determines the economic policy. As a matter of fact, the decision is very much influenced by the political process, such as the budget provision, budget execution, law formulation, and many others. As the consequences, improvement in the decision making process (at the micro level) and quality of institution (at a macro level) is undoubtedly important.

I second Pak Jusuf Kalla’s notion, that the size of a country, the type of its political system, its geography doesn’t matter to the development of a country. A big country like US can be a developed country, so is a tiny country like Singapore. A democratic country like US, UK, Germany can be a developed so is an authoritarian country like China, or semi-authoritarian countries like Malaysia and Singapore. A country that is far away from equatorial line can be a developed country, such as Scandinavian countries, so are countries in equatorial line. In the end, what matter most is the top leadership. A good leader would be able to set-up a good governmental institution and create mutual understanding with other stakeholders to achieve common prosperity. I’m aware that it’s easy to say but might be very difficult to be implemented.

May our leader always be guided by Allah SWT. Let us also, as a good citizen to do our part, i.e. continue to excel in our field and able to give significant value added to the society. Wish you the very best.

Al asmaul husna

Rasa cinta terkadang tumbuh dari ketertarikan kita pada sifat. Seringkali, cinta yang didasarkan pada sifat ini jauh lebih kuat dari cinta yang didasarkan pada fisik, harta, dan beberapa hal lainnya. Kita cinta misalnya pada A, kenapa? Mungkin karena kita menyukai sifatnya yang lembut, sifatnya yang cerdas, dan sifat lainnya.

Di zaman kenabian dahulu, Nabi Muhammad SAW pun menganjurkan kita untuk menyatakan kecintaan kita pada sahabat kita. Mungkin kita mencintainya karena ibadahnya yang baik. Kita mencintainya karena sifat penyayangnya pada sesama dan sifat-sifat lainnya. Rasulullah SAW pun menganjurkan, katakan padanya, uhibbukum fillah, aku mencintaimu karena Allah.

In my humble opinion, begitu juga halnya dengan kecintaan kita pada Allah SWT. Jika kita ingin meningkatkan rasa cinta pada Allah, ingin memperbaharui rasa cinta kita pada Allah, maka perhatikanlah sifat-sifat Allah, nama-nama Allah, al asmaul husna yang berjumlah 99. Sangatlah baik jika kita dapat merenungi sifat-sifat Allah SWT tersebut dan mencoba untuk mempraktekkannya.

Setelah kita renungkan dan rasakan sifat-sifat Allah SAW tersebut, kita mungkin akan merasakan bahwa mempraktekkan beberapa sifat dari al asmaul husna itu mungkin tidak terlalu berat, namun mempraktekkan semua atau ke-99 sifat-sifat Allah tersebut tentunya sangatlah challenging. Karenanya, kitapun akan mengerti, betapa kita sangat kagum pada kesempurnaan Allah SWT yang memiliki 99 sifat tersebut.

Semoga Allah SWT selalu membimbing kita, menguatkan keimanan kita, dan memperdalam rasa cinta kita pada-Nya. Wassalamualaikum,,

Al-Jazeera

One of my source of inspiration is Al-Jazeera, a 21st century television channel. It is not only informative but also inspiring. Whenever I watch Al-Jazeera program, I always feel, Al-Jazeera has done its part, by producing program with a highest quality, now it’s my part, to produce something, such as academic work, with a highest quality as well.

I just watched one episode of its program, called earthrise. A documentary which explore the possibility of living in a sustainable planet. I greatly admire the works that they did in this program. I realize how the way we run our country in the pursuit of higher economic growth has deteriorate our environment.

Currently, Indonesia is the race to be a developed country. From GDP per capita only around USD2,500 (PPP) in 2000 to almost USD5,000 (PPP) in 2011. I think this situation is very dangerous if we keep blindly aspire for higher GDP per capita even though by undermining our environment.

I’m not sure, whether this can be stopped or not; or maybe nature is the only power who can stop us forcefully. The result of Doha Climate Change Conference (COP18) which took place November, last month, further stress that many countries, are not willing to put more attention and action to reduce the environmental impact. It exactly fit with what Allah said in the qur’an, the earth will be damaged by human hands, and we will see that impact to our life. But have we changed?

Some community initiatives, such as what can be seen in earthrise series three-episode eight, are something that should be appreciated.

Mismanaged country

Living in foreign country can help to get an outsider view about our country. Something that I think quite important, moreover from experts in their field.

One of my Prof, when he talked about Indonesian economy, without aware that I am Indonesian, said that Indonesia is a mismanaged country. In another class, a professor, when he needs to make an example, about a bad infrastructure-country, he will easily take Indonesia, especially Jakarta as an example. In another class, about foreign aid, my prof said that Japan is very interested to give development aid to Indonesia because Indonesia has oil (previously) and gas, which is very important for Japan so that Japan needs to ‘good’ with Indonesia.

Listening to many of this occasions make me really believe how bad the situation in Indonesia is. Previously, not that I am not aware of this problem, but I thought in the last eight years, we’ve done a very good job; but not really. Decentralization, high-cost direct election, weak internal control system have paralyzed Indonesia’s development.

Obviously change in one person won’t be enough; but when we commit to be better and act better at individual level, I believe we as a country can move forward faster. Islam since the beginning has always emphasize the important of good individual, later in the judgement day, we will be held responsible as an Individual. Nonetheless, united efforts, such as uniting vision, conducting systematical change in government organizations, are equally important. What do you think?

Economic Series (2): Asian Financial Crisis 1997 and a bit of Reflection

Asian Financial Crisis 1997 has left many impacts to Indonesia. Its impacts range from  the current political order, current economic system, culture, and many others. Unfortunately, this important episode in Indonesian history is not really well understood by many Indonesian youth, including me, until recently, when I take a class on Asian Financial Market at the University of Tokyo. Since the main target for this writing is Indonesian youth, I’ll use Bahasa Indonesia.

Banyak di antara kita yang tidak terlalu paham dengan apa yang sebenarnya terjadi saat krisis keuangan tahun 1997. Ada yang memahaminya sebagai serangan spekulasi, ada yang bilang merupakan bank run, ada yang hanya tahu bahwa Indonesia dibuat lemah oleh IMF, dan yang pasti, ada yang tidak tahu apa pun sampai sekarang. Saya akan coba sedikit jelaskan dan mengambil beberapa pelajaran dari episode crisis ini.

Krisis keuangan tahun 1997 ini berawal dari serangan spekulatif atas mata uang Bath Thailand. Serangan spekulatif ini pun sebenarnya bukan tanpa alasan mengapa Thailand yang dipilih; mengapa bukan Indonesia, bukan Malaysia, dst. Sejak tahun 1994, Thailand mengalami perlambatan pada kinerja ekspornya. Sejak tahun 1994, nilai import Thailand jauh lebih besar dari pada nilai ekspornya. Ekonom menyebut hal ini dengan current account deficit. Salah satu penjelasan mengapa terjadi perlambatan pada ekspor Thailand pada tahun 1994 adalah karena Cina mendevaluasi mata uang nya pada tahun tersebut sehingga ekspor Cina menjadi lebih murah dibanding Thailand dan negara lainnya.

Pada saat yang sama, modal asing yang masuk ke Thailand tetap positif, dengan persentase terhadap GDP yang jauh lebih besar dibandingkan current account deficit. Hal ini pun berdampak sedikit tricky pada sebagian analisis. Current account yang negatif bila dijumlahkan dengan capital account yang positif, namun lebih besar, menunjukkan seolah-olah Thailand is fine, Thailand is ok. Namun sebenarnya tidak demikian.

Kemudian George Soros and his friends came, speculative attack pun diluncurkan pada Thai Bath di swap market, pada April 1997. Pada Juli 1997, Bank sentral Thailand (Bank of Thailand/BoT) menyadari bahwa tekanan spekulasi ini terlalu kuat dan tahu bahwa saat transaksi swat direalisasikan, BoT akan kehabisan cadangan devisanya. Pada akhirnya BoT pun mendevaluasi mata uangnya sekitar 20%. Thailand akhirnya meminta bantuan finansial pada IMF. Thailand resmi masuk menjadi ‘pasien’ IMF sejak Agustus 1997.

Then the story continue to Indonesia. Pada saat itu kondisi makroekonomi Indonesia berada dalam keadaan yang sangat baik. Namun untuk berjaga-jaga, pemerintah Indonesia pun meminta IMF untuk juga memberi bantuan pada Indonesia. Ada yang mengatakan juga bahwa sebagian teknokrat (ekonom) Indonesia pada waktu itu meresa bahwa itulah saat yang tepat untuk ‘mereformasi’ ekonomi Indonesia, dari yang didominasi oleh perusahaan negara dan keluarga Soeharto menjadi ekonomi yang lebih ‘liberal’.

Sebagai pra-syarat masuk ke program IMF, IMF meminta pemerintah Indonesia untuk menutup sejumlah bank yang dinilai berkinerja buruk, sekitar 16 bank kalau tidak salah. Nonetheless, apa yang mereka (ekonom) perkirakan ternyata tidak tepat, atau mungkin terlalu meng-underestimate impact penutupan bank tersebut. Setelah bank-bank tersebut ditutup, masyarakat pun menjadi panik. Karena tidak ada penjelasan yang jelas dari pemerintah mengapa bank-bank tersebut ditutup, masyarakat takut bahwa mungkin bank yang lainnya juga akan segera ditutup. Di sinilah bermula bank run dan capital flight di Indonesia. Maryarakat beramai-ramai ingin mengambil uangnya di bank (tentu saja bank tidak punya persedian uang yang cukup karena tabungan masyarakat itu disalurkan pada kreditor), orang-orang pun juga segera mengalihkan uangnya ke US Dollar atau mata uang lainnya yang dianggap aman.

From here, krisis pun menjadi semakin buruk di Indonesia. Nilai tukar pun ‘ambruk’ dari sekitar Rp2.500 per US Dollar menjadi Rp16.000 per US Dollar. Banyak perusahaan yang bangkrut, pengangguran meningkat, inflasi, dll. Hal ini pun diperburuk oleh ‘resep’ IMF yang sangat salah dalam membantu ekonomi Indonesia. The rest of the story, we know it, president Soeharto pun mundur dari jabatannya. Indonesia pun masuk ke era reformasi yang ditandai oleh demokrasi.

Sebagai refleksi, ada beberap hal yang cukup menarik menurut saya. Pertama, peristiwa ini menunjukkan bahwa masyarakat Indonesia is a strong-persevere society. masyarakat Indonesia berhasil melalui hal yang cukup drastis dan turbulent tersebut. The fact that saat ini Indonesia masih utuh dan perekonomiannya tumbuh dengan pesat, menunjukkan bahwa bangsa Indonesia mampu bangkit dengan cepat dan beradaptasi dengan kondisi baru. Kedua, meskipun Indonesia mengalami saat yang pahit pada 1997 sampai awal 2000-an, saat ini Indonesia sudah menjadi negara yang demokratis. Meskipun demokrasi juga memiliki cukup banyak kelemahan, namun sekarang kita bisa dengan lebih bebas mempraktekkan agama kita, termasuk agama islam. Da’wah berkembang dengan pesat, jumlah muslimah yang menggunakan kerudung dengan baik semakin bertambah, dll. Kita pun juga bisa menyampaikan kritik kita pada pemerintah, sesuatu yang sebelumnya tidak bisa dilakukan. Ketiga, semua reform yang Indonesia lakukan pada saat krisis tersebut telah membantu Indonesia menjadi negara yang manajemen ekonomi nya jauh lebih baik sehingga tidak terlalu terpengaruh oleh krisis tahun 2008 yang lalu dan juga krisis hutang euro zone saat ini.

Sebagai penutup, menurut saya, there must be a reason mengapa Allah menetapkan bahwa Indonesia harus mengalami krisis tahun 1997 yang lalu. Sebagaiman yang disebutkan dalam Qur’an bahwa bersama kesulitan akan ada kemudahan, dan juga dalam budaya China bahwa krisis itu berarti ancaman dan peluang, kita harus manfaatkan kesempatan yang kita miliki sekarang untuk membuat Indonesia menjadi lebih baik. Yes, it seems that korupsi semakin banyak di Indonesia, but again, tak ada yang bisa merubahnya kecuali dengan usaha kita sendiri dan dengan izin Allah.

So, let’s prepare ourselves, mari kita berusaha menjadi orang makin baik dari hari ke hari, menjadi muslim yang bermanfaat bagi orang sekitar, sehingga Allah pun semakin ridha dengan kita. Semoga bermanfaat. Salam.

Economic Series (1): Official Development Assistance Policy

Since my background is economics, I thought it might be beneficial for me and others if sometime I write about an economic topic. I will start with a topic on ODA. Hope it’s going to be beneficial.

ODA, or Official Development Aid, in a simple term, it means assistance that a country (called donor country) gives to other countries (called recipient countries) in promoting recipient countries’ development. The assistance could be a grant, low cost debt, technical assistance or training, debt relief, humanitarian aid, or even contribution to international development entities, such as United Nations.

In the past 30 years, at least, the biggest donor countries in the world are USA and Japan. Nonetheless, the characteristic of their ODA is quite different. US usually gives ODAs in the form of social infrastructure, such as programs to improve education level, health, and related thing in targeted country; while Japan’s ODA has been more in the form of infrastructure development. I will focus more on Japan’s ODA.

There are many reasons which explain Japan’s ODA policy; I will try to explain some of them. First, Japanese government and Japanese society at large, believe that development is the result of self-help and industrialization policy, where government’s role is quite significant. I believe this is caused by their experience of which Japan managed to be developed, not by huge Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as in the case of Korea and China, but more on the ability to improve their technological capability by investing more in education. Secondly, Japan also wants to get benefit from ODA that it gave to developing countries. This brings me to my next point about the ‘hidden agenda’ of ODA.

Usually, Japan will give ODA to countries which can benefit it economically, for example by making Japanese companies have a better infrastructure in recipient country. For example, if there are some Japanese companies operate in rural area of Vietnam, maybe because of the availability of resources, etc., and it is quite far away from the city or the port. then Japanese government will be very willing to give to cheap loan to Vietnam to build road from where Japanese companies operate to the city to the port. In this situation, Japanese as a whole will gain quite a lot. Government will receive interest on loan that it gives (usually the interest rate will be higher than Japan’s domestic interest rate), Japanese companies will also get benefit from a better infrastructure in Vietnam. Furthermore, a sad side, usually the companies which will get the contracts to build the road are usually also Japanese companies. So Japan really get high benefit from this ODA.

Is this something wrong? Is this exploitation? Yes it seems that both sides are happy, Japanese government and companies get profit, Vietnamese also get a better infrastructure. Nonetheless, I would think that the benefit that Vietnam get will be higher if their own national companies can get the road project, so that there will be additional (multiplier) impact to Vietnamese economy. In addition, sometimes that aid that developed country give is a tied aid, where the project should be carried out by the donor country. In this aspect, usually the project cost is not efficient, which give higher burden to the recipient country.

Lastly, developed countries are very keen to continue with this model. Even Japanese government give subsidy or loan for its corporation to take part in this system. In addition, whenever an ‘isolated country’ open-up their economy, such as China in 1980s, Vietnam, and now Myanmar, many countries are rushing into these new ‘open-up’ countries to get more project. To conclude, now maybe we can see that there is no such free gift or sincere help nowadays. Policy makers, mainly in developing countries, should be cautious and mindful that decision or policies that they take should be really base on cost and benefit analysis so that their citizen will not be disadvantaged. That’s all, wallahua’lam.

Part of jama’ah

Very often I receive a question, “…Rully, how can we maintain our consistency in campus life, in terms of balancing study, organization, competition, family, and others?”. Beside an answer about time management, the importance of intention (niat) and idealism, quite often I also mention, be part of a jama’ah (movement group).

Since my first year in senior high school, around August 2004 (eight and half years ago), I have joined a weekly Islamic mentoring group. The group consists around eight to ten students, where there will be an ustadz as the facilitator. It is a routine activity where we meet to learn Islamic teaching, plan common community service program, and other beneficial activities, weekly. I find this program as very beneficial; and I feel that I am a part of a larger movement group who wants work for a betterment of Indonesia and the world. Without exaggerating, I think that my involvement in this program, has contributed significantly to who I am today; and, for example, why I can won the most outstanding student awards at University of Indonesia, last year, 2011.

I still can remember the first time I was introduced to this activity. I don’t know why, at that time I felt very very happy. I can still remember the long, deep, and calm sujud syukur (gratitude prostration) that I did after the first meeting ended. Furthermore, the best thing about this activity is that we can continue it almost where ever we go, whether to Singapore or to Tokyo, as I experienced it; again, because we’re a part of a larger movement group.

One month ago, when I was in Makkah, for Hajj, I am about to send an email. I want to submit a paper for a student conference in Singapore. Unfortunately, at that time, there was no WiFi in my hotel. I tried very hard to get internet connection, including by purchasing local SIM card, but still, I can have internet connection. At that time, I felt very disappointed. I was wondering in my heart, Allah, what’s your plan? Why do you mean? Why can’t I submit this paper? I believe that this activity is a beneficial one, why can’t I, Allah?. That was the feeling inside my heart. The reason why I think like that is because I firmly believe that there must always be a reason why Allah arrange something the way it is.

One month later, or exactly yesterday, I realized the answer. Yesterday was my first time to join the weekly mentoring again, something that I regard as one of the best things that ever happened to me in Tokyo. If I were submitted my paper that time, I would have been in Singapore since yesterday, which will make me miss the first mentoring and have to wait for  two weeks more to join it, if things go well.

The moral of the story is two. First, maybe at some point in time, we don’t understand what Allah meant for arranging something; just believe that it must always be a good reason behind that. Second, I really suggest you, go to the Islamic student organization in your university (such as FSI in FE UI), then ask to join the mentoring. Trust me, insyaallah, we’ll get the benefit here in dunya, and in akhirah, as well. May Allah always strengthens us and guides us. Salam,