Reflecting international concerns that Indonesia is not moving fast enough to overhaul its economy, Walter Mondale Tuesday urged President Suharto to stick with tough reforms tied to a $43 billion bailout.
Former Vice President Mondale acknowledged the economic hardship that Indonesians face as the government announced the highest monthly inflation rate in three decades under Suharto."The task of following through with these difficult economic reforms will not be easy," Mondale said after meeting Suharto for 11/2 hours at his home in Jakarta.
Prices rose 12.8 percent in February, bringing inflation this year to 19.6 percent, the government's statistics office said Monday. The cost of many commodities has risen far higher and reforms required by the International Monetary Fund are likely to deepen the pain for the poor.
On the island of Borneo Tuesday, police patrolled a town a day after dispersing a crowd angry over soaring prices. In Jakarta, hundreds of university students protested on at least two campuses against Suharto's handling of the economic crisis and his expected renomination next week.
Sent by President Clinton, Mondale, the former ambassador to Japan, said he discussed a controversial plan to shore up the battered rupiah.
A currency board would peg the rupiah to the dollar at a fixed exchange rate, stripping the central bank of control over monetary pol-i-cy.
The United States and other foreign lenders oppose the idea of a board, saying IMF reforms are the best path to rescue Indonesia's economy.
"The way to deal with the severe currency problems is to deal with the underlying forces that are driving the rupiah toward its weakness," Mondale said. "There are not quick fixes that provide an alternative."
Suharto told Mondale that Indonesia is committed to the IMF program but still needs another strategy to stabilize the rupiah, presidential spokesman Murdiono said.