What New in the Latest Issue of BIES – Special Issue in Honour of Ross McLeod and Chris Manning – Introduction

The August 2012 Issue of the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies is now available online. This is a Special Issue in Honour of Chris Manning and Ross McLeod. Below is the introduction from Hal Hill and Budy P Resosudarmo from Indonesia Project, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, ANU. You can also read the Foreword of this Issue by Boediono, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia.

Chris Manning and Ross McLeod

Hal Hill and Budy P. Resosudarmo
Australian National University

This special issue of the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies (BIES) recognises Chris Manning and Ross McLeod for their scholarship, their role as public intellectuals, their mentoring of students, their collegiality and their institution building, all with special reference to Indonesia over a period of more than four decades both in Canberra and in various parts of Indonesia.

While their personalities and backgrounds differ – more on this below – they share much in common. They were part of a post-war generation of Australians who were pioneers in their curiosity about, and their desire to engage with, an
exciting and rapidly evolving era of Southeast Asian nation building. Both sought to immerse themselves deeply in the region – mainly Indonesia, but with a strong interest in its neighbourhood. Both were motivated by a concern for the state of human well-being, observing deprivation and poverty on a scale far more serious than in their country of birth, and then trying to understand the socio-economic, historical and political origins. Both began serious research on Indonesia
equipped with strong analytical foundations but also with an open curiosity. Both carried this interest forward with path-breaking research on Indonesia – Chris on wages and labour markets, Ross on small business finance – while at the Australian National University (ANU) in the 1970s. Both continued to work in and on Indonesia for the next three decades, at the ANU’s Arndt–Corden Department of Economics and elsewhere. Both were highly collegial individuals, supportive of academic colleagues and graduate students in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere, and eager to facilitate constructive dialogues on Indonesian development issues and challenges. For the past 13 years or so, both have been central figures in the development of the ANU’s work on the Indonesian economy, and of the university’s Indonesia Project.

So much for the similarities. The differences also deserve mention. Ross came from provincial Victoria, studied to be an engineer, worked briefly as one and then ‘saw the light’ as he sometimes said, and switched to economics. He stumbled
upon Indonesia almost by accident during his first major travels abroad – on a Singapore-bound boat that ran aground near Tanjung Priok! As a result of that chance encounter, he quickly became fascinated with the country. By contrast,
Chris, who grew up in rural New South Wales and attended boarding school in Sydney, enrolled in what was quaintly called ‘Oriental Studies’ at the ANU, where he studied Indonesian language and culture as well as economics. Wanting firsthand experience of Indonesia, he worked as a volunteer graduate at the Bogor Agricultural Institute (Institut Pertanian Bogor) for two years. On his return to Australia, he took a master’s degree at Monash University, attracted by its vibrant Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, and acting specifically on the advice of Jamie Mackie, the centre’s director at the time, and also a distant relative of Chris’s. He then spent a further two years in Indonesia, this time at the Population Studies Centre, Gadjah Mada University. This cemented his close personal and professional association with its legendary director, the late Dr Masri Singarimbun; whom Chris had earlier worked for as a research assistant in Canberra.

When first Chris and then Ross embarked on doctoral dissertation research at the ANU in the mid-1970s, their research careers overlapped for the first time. Under the leadership of Heinz Arndt, the ANU was then into its second decade
of serious work on the Indonesian economy. The program was already attracting economists who were to become leading international figures in the field, among them Anne Booth, Howard Dick, Stephen Grenville and Peter McCawley. Chris
had already spent some time in Heinz Arndt’s department as a research assistant, alongside another research assistant – Boediono – who was destined to become Indonesia’s vice president.

Although they had different supervisors and were in different departments – Chris in the research school, Ross in the ‘faculties’ (the teaching department) – they both undertook extensive fieldwork in Java for about 12 months. Travel to
Indonesia to conduct fieldwork was a feature of ANU work on the Indonesian economy at the time, partly because the secondary database was very weak and partly because of the methodological inclinations of the key senior researchers.
Thus, Chris interviewed the owners of many textile and cigarette firms in West, Central and East Java to find out why inter-firm wage differences were so large, while Ross sought to understand how finance for small business enterprises operated, mainly in the region of Yogyakarta.

Viewed from a contemporary research perspective, this was a highly unusual approach to economic research. Both spent many months interviewing the owners of firms, other economic actors, local researchers and government officials. Chris
had a head start in this painstaking research, with his major in Bahasa Indonesia and his two years in Bogor. But Ross began to catch up quickly, with his linguistic proficiency and local field knowledge. This sort of research could have been
regarded as quasi-anthropological, and in fact their methodologies had some elements in common with this discipline. But, while eclectic and inter-disciplinary in their approaches, both Chris and Ross remained grounded in economics. Their
dissertations were examined, and commended, by major international figures in the discipline. In their post-doctoral work, they continued to engage with both the economics profession and the Asian studies community as their intellectual

From the early 1980s, their careers followed at times similar and at times divergent paths. Both lived and worked for extended periods in Indonesia. Ross worked as a small business finance adviser to Bank Indonesia in Semarang and later as a specialist educator attached to the Ministry of Finance in Jakarta. Chris worked as a researcher in Bogor and Yogyakarta. The Yogyakarta connection of both, centred on Gadjah Mada University, has continued to be an important part
of their lives. The university supported their work, in a practical and intellectual sense, and they both conducted field research in and around the city. Immediately upon completion of his PhD, Chris again worked for Gadjah Mada’s Population Studies Centre, and the city now appears likely to be his home for ‘retirement’.

Both returned to Australia in the mid-1980s. For some years, Chris worked at the Population Studies Centre at Flinders University in Adelaide. Ross taught economics for a period at the ANU, and maintained a Canberra base for his frequent
travels to Indonesia, where he worked as a consultant to the Department of Finance through the Jakarta office of the Harvard Institute for International Development. Then, in the early 1990s, two vacancies for work on the Indonesian
economy arose at the ANU. Both Chris and Ross were interested in these positions, and both were clearly the outstanding applicants. They returned to the university, and proceeded to reinvigorate its work on Indonesia and economic
development for the next two decades. With greater freedom for research, and a stimulating, supportive academic environment, they entered arguably their most intellectually productive periods.

The major academic publications of each are listed below. Ross returned to some of his earlier work on finance and development, including the important 1994 Indonesia Update volume on this subject. He then began to extend his research
interests in various directions. When the Asian financial crisis hit Indonesia, and some of its neighbours, with unexpected ferocity, with Ross Garnaut he organised perhaps the first serious academic conference and book project on this subject. His interest in financial development broadened into the field of macroeconomic management, in the process crossing the border from micro to macroeconomics. In 1997, in what quickly became a widely cited paper, he sought to explain Indonesia’s ‘chronic inflation’ – that is, why the country had difficulty matching the low inflation record of its neighbours, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. A major research interest in the wake of the Soeharto era was governance and corruption. In a paper published in 2000, he developed the thesis that the Soeharto regime constituted a ‘better class of corruption’. Critics of the ANU’s work on the Indonesian economy interpreted this as a sophisticated defence of that regime. But on the contrary, Ross was simply trying to explain – convincingly in retrospect – why and how the 32-year Soeharto rule achieved historically high rates of both economic growth and poverty reduction, alongside egregious corruption. From the mid-1980s, this corruption was heavily concentrated on the presidential family, a phenomenon Ross aptly termed the ‘Soeharto franchise’. Ross extended this research to the related area of civil service reform, writing an important paper on the subject for the BIES in 2005, and co-editing (with Andrew MacIntyre) an Indonesia Update volume on governance in 2007.

Chris similarly maintained a deep interest in his original field of research before branching out into related topics. In 1993, shortly after returning to the ANU, he too edited an Update volume – almost a condition of entry to the Indonesia Project! He then continued to work on the Indonesian labour market, drawing on his earlier dissertation research and close familiarity with Indonesian development dynamics in its various manifestations – demographic, rural, regional and industrial – on all of which he had already written major papers and monographs. The new dimension at this time was that Indonesia was becoming increasingly ‘East Asian’, in the sense that rapid export-oriented industrialisation, combined
with rising education and more open export markets, was now transforming Indonesian, and particularly Javanese, labour markets. Helped by a much improved secondary database, Chris was able to document these changes convincingly
and in great detail, resulting in several significant papers and a seminal volume, Indonesian Labour in Transition, published by Cambridge University Press in 1998. While maintaining his interest in labour and poverty, Chris began to
look beyond Indonesia to the broader region. He co-authored two major volumes on international labour migration in the Asia–Pacific: one with Prema-chandra Athukorala in 1999 and the other with Prema-chandra Athukorala and Piyasiri
Wickramasekara in 2000. He also wrote papers on various labour-related issues in Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and Southeast Asia more broadly.

Our two friends’ personal dispositions may appear to differ somewhat: a heroic characterisation might be – and frequently is! – that Chris is the quintessential under-stated ‘Javanese’, often cautious in his judgments and conclusions,
while Ross is more ‘Batak’-like in his direct personality and forceful pronouncements. But in other respects they have much in common. They both focus on what has been happening to the rakyat, the vulnerable bottom 40% or so of the
community, and they have a profound distaste for the arrogance of the politically well-connected rich. They both follow developments in Indonesia very closely, through an unparalleled circle of close friends, through the media and through
frequent field trips. They regularly monitor the country’s political economy, they examine the secondary database, and they follow the latest research. They reach out comfortably across disciplinary boundaries, and are eclectic in their resort to both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

The Indonesia Project entered a new phase in 1998, when Chris became Head of the Project and Ross was appointed Editor of the BIES. For the next 12 years, they carved out a highly complementary and congenial working relationship. Under their leadership the work of the Indonesia Project flourished, as did its Indonesia research more generally. Ross rigorously edited the BIES with assiduous attention to detail, down to the last footnote, in the process elevating its standing in international journal rankings to among the very highest among journals of its type. He also steered the BIES into the complex new world of electronic journal editing and publishing. Chris headed the grand Indonesia Project enterprise, reaching out effectively to its highly diverse constituencies, across disciplinary boundaries, geographical borders and ideological perspectives. The annual Indonesia Update conference and accompanying volume, which had commenced in 1983 and 1989 respectively, were taken to new heights in terms of audience, scholarly quality and recognition. The regular Indonesia Study Group seminar series was invigorated. Several new collaborative research and policy activities were initiated. Graduate student work on the Indonesian economy rose sharply. Taken together, it is hard to think of a more influential and sustained collaborative effort in Indonesian studies in recent times.

Switching from the professional to the personal, there is another important similarity – namely that their cultural immersion in Indonesia has extended beyond the purely academic. For more than 30 years, Chris’s wife Tri and Ross’s wife Prapti have shaped their lives and outlooks, and their understanding of Indonesia. In important respects Tri and Prapti have been silent ‘co-authors’ in their thinking and writing on Indonesia, not to mention anchors of their vast and disparate social networks in Canberra and Indonesia.

This special issue of the BIES consists of essays by some of the closest colleagues and friends of Chris and Ross, in their honour. It also contains a tribute to Widjojo Nitisastro, an icon of Indonesian economic policy making. The issue is a small token of appreciation from the broader community of scholars and friends who have been enriched by their friendship and scholarship. This is of course not the end of their stories – they are, fortunately, alive and well, with various interesting and important activities under way. We would not be at all surprised if more seminal papers and books appeared under their names. But this seems like an appropriate juncture to pause, and to reflect on and celebrate their achievements. To Chris and Ross we say ‘Terima kasih banyak, Bapak Bapak’, and to our readers we say ‘Selamat membaca’.

Hal Hill & Budy P. Resosudarmo (2012): Introduction, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 48:2, 129-142