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WHEN newly installed state enterprise minister Dahlan Iskan announced in late October that Mr Nur Pamudji would succeed him as the head of state electricity utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), observers were quick to read the signs.

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IN LATE October, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle, many analysts derided the move as reflecting little more than a desire to shore up political support in Parliament rather than a serious attempt to initiate real change. They had a point. Many party hacks, including some who had been implicated in graft cases, were retained in the new line-up.

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A LITTLE-KNOWN opinion poll carried out in August and published by the Indonesian-language Kompas newspaper has thrown up some interesting information about voter preferences that could have a bearing on the outcome of the 2014 presidential elections.

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INDONESIA ranks 61st out of 65 countries when it comes to 15-year-olds’ proficiency in mathematics. Their reading skills are a little better, with teenagers in only seven countries performing worse. This is the conclusion of a study carried out in 2009 by the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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IT TAKES local governments in Indonesia an average of 75 days to repair damaged roads, and up to seven days to repair water and electricity networks. These were some findings of a survey on the performance of local administrations released by watchdog Regional Autonomy Watch (KPPOD) in June.

Key Political Risks

The inability of the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to bridge the deep divisions between her populist government and its royalist opponents in the military and bureaucracy remains a major concern.

Prime Minister Yingluck has selected a competent economic team, but it is difficult for these technocrats to deliver on the new government's campaign promises without triggering inflation or hurting business. 

The government has also been unable to resolve the ongoing insurgency involving ethnic Malay Muslim rebels in the south.



  1. Attempts by the government to amend the constitution. The proposed rewrite is aimed removing legal measures initiated by the royalist generals who overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the current prime minister's elder brother, in 2006.
  2. Ballooning government debt as officials seek to finance government programmes aimed at subsidising rice prices in order to retain the support of farmers.
  3. The relationship between Prime Minister Yingluck and senior generals. Coups have been a common means of regime change in Thai history, and any attempt by the government to purge royalist elements in the top brass could trigger yet another. Thailand

About Me

My name is Dr Bruce Gale and I am a senior writer with the Singapore Straits Times. I studied at  LaTrobe University (BA Hons) in Melbourne and later at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Monash University (MA). My PhD thesis, which focussed on Malaysian political economy, was completed at the Malaysian National University (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) in 1987.

From 1988 to 2003 I was Singapore Regional Manager for the Hong Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC). 

I have written several books and articles on Southeast Asian affairs, including Political Risk and International Business: Case Studies in Southeast Asia (Pelanduk Publications, 2007). Books on language include Mastering Indonesian: a guide to reading Indonesian language newspapers (Pelanduk Publications, 2008)

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