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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Pay Up

Or face the taxman

PRESIDENT SUHARTO DOES NOT usually have to rely on public threats to get his way. But after the July 27 Jakarta riots, it is not business as usual. At the presidential palace in Bogor Sept. 14, Suharto scolded 300 of the country's business elite, among them Liem Sioe Liong and Eka Tjipta Widjaya, for neglecting the poor. Only half of them had "voluntarily" contributed 2% of their company's after-tax income to Suharto's poverty-alleviation fund. "Maybe the director-general of tax can step in and help," said the president, "but I hope that won't be necessary."

After all, Suharto reminded his guests, their good fortune is a product of the stability his 30-year rule provided. Activists could upset that stability by exploiting the wealth gap, he warned. The number of impoverished has dropped from 60% to 14% of the population under Suharto's government. But resentment over the public display of wealth by the rich still simmers.

The tycoons had agreed to contribute after a similar meeting in Bali last year. The money goes to the Self-Reliant Prosperity Fund, which is supposed to make a low-interest loan of Rp 20,000 ($8), and a Rp 2,000 (0.80 cent) donation, to every one of the nation's 13.1 million poor families. (The minimum wage is about $2 a day.) Suharto chairs the fund; his son Bambang Trihatmodjo is treasurer. So far, businesses have handed over some $128 million. No one is sure how much of that still sits in the fund's coffers.

CEOs privately complain about the new levy. "It is hard to do business in this sort of climate," grumbles one. The threat of the taxman's scrutiny, however, may oblige them to pay up.

-- Reported by Keith Loveard/Jakarta

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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