JAKARTA — Like mighty Goliath attacking the minions, surrogates of Minister of Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar (NasDem) have been employing Trump-esque populist rhetoric in repeated media attacks against Indonesian paper giants Sinar Mas/APP and RAPP/APRIL. Hailed by the eco-press and activists alike the new policies’ economic and social impact are barely comprehensible. But, hail to the fantasies of the eco-left.
It has succeeded in stopping production of Indonesian products which were leading the mar ket globally. The rise in unemployment, tension in societies of ill-fated eco-policies are expected and have neither protected the environment nor provide a sustainable solution.
Sinar Mas/APP and RAPP/APRIL, owned by the Indonesian business tycoon families the Wijaya’s and Tanoto’s respectively, are the targets of a hell-bent campaign by the Jokowi administration to force the implementation of policies that industry experts call, “questionable foreign lobbyist policies,” and what academics are calling a Slap-Around-Policy (SAP). Good for populist politics, bad for market confidence and stability.
Claims by the minister she is not against the industry are not shared by industry insiders who complain the minister is not listening to concerns about the economic and social fall-out looming in the provinces.
“Jokowi has stacked his cabinet with a set of home-grown NGO activists who in the past were on the payroll of foreign NGOs. The president bought – lock, stock, and barrel – into the global hysteria of ‘doom is near,’ disregarding the domestic industry and the employees of the industry,” said an academic who was speaking at a recent meeting hosted by Gajah Mada University.
“For example, if either Sinar Mas/APP or APRIL has let’s say, 50,000 employees, the work force easily supports 200,000 family members.” He added, “the figure is likely higher and the economic impact and the lack of comprehension by the administration are astonishing. The economy is already feeling the pinch. Pressurizing the industry further who are market leaders position isn’t particularly clever”, he added.
The successful destruction of the Indonesian economic engine was accomplished through the implementation of NGO policies promoted in the Jokowi cabinet by the likes of Chief of Staff Teten Masduki, Nazir Foaed (who is funded by the US Democrat Party-linked Climate Land Use Alliance (CLUA) and is the former Director of Conservation at WWF Indonesia) and a few others.
Resistance by the industry and moderate politicians in the cabinet to disagree with the policies pursued by the populist Jokowi administration was dismissed by the president’s Chief of Staff as “anti-reformist”. Sounding more like revolutionary statements rather than balanced policy are troubling signs for the future.
Under Foaed’s WWF leadership, the destruction of the Tesso Nilo National Park in Riau reached about 75% of its land mass. An attempt to blame it on one of the Indonesian paper giants backfired after the former Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan found out about the damage and threatened to fire the WWF who was running the park. Hasan was supported by other Indonesian lawmakers who had long been vocal opponents of foreign-funded NGOs. It proves the point NGOs are neither contributing to the economic wealth nor able to protect assets entrusted to them.
The relationship between foreign-funded Indonesian NGOs supported under the Obama administration causing harm to the economic interests of Indonesia is well documented; however, it has often been ignored by the populist policies pursued by the SBY regime, which provided the political oxygen for groups like Greenpeace to flourish. The US-based Greenpeace boasted that its actions caused a loss of 75% of the US market for APP products. Somehow everyone thinks this is a good thing.
A similar result was manifested by actions of an EU-funded group being responsible for spoiling APRIL’s conservation commitment of 100 million USD. Now both APP and APRIL are expected to lose approximately 400,000 hectares of their land bank as a result of a 2013 WWF campaign plan to create an Indian style eco-park for wealthy foreign tourists. Experience has shown the NGO eco-tourism schemes have failed to meet the promises.
Jokowi’s Chief of Staff has been spotted meeting with local NGOs, some of whose members belong to the Marxist leaning People’s Democratic Party. Posing as members of a local environmental NGO, these neo-revolutionaries are funded by WWF and the Finnish government via a Finnish NGO. Two of the local NGO environmental “activists” were in fact members of the same group who executed a 32-year-old contract worker in 2011 as part of an effort to start a “people’s war.”
Foreign activists from the US and Finland were identified providing “material and ideological guidance,” according to an Indonesian intelligence official familiar with the case. When asked why authorities have not stopped or arrested the foreigners, he laconically shrugged his shoulders and said, “politics.” Activism does kill.
Unfortunately, the lack of foresight that plagues Indonesian strategic thinking also precludes the ability to “connect the dots” between poor economic performance, lack of taxable revenues, and loss of global market share as a result of NGO influence peddling.
A 2016 study by the highly respected US think-tank the Heritage Foundation titled, Consequences of the Paris Protocol: Devastating Economic Costs, Essentially Zero Environmental Benefits applies to Indonesia as well as the United States. The study identified a consolidated loss of jobs and income as a result of the Paris Climate Accord across the board. US manufacturers estimated a 25-27 percent loss of jobs in the paper industry. Prior to banning Greenpeace and warning the Ford Foundation the Government of India came to the conclusion NGOs pose an economic threat to India causing an annual loss of GDP between 1-3 percent. An independent study found the same applies for Indonesia and Malaysia. Greenpeace is banned in India.
Coupled with the media hysteria that followed President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, a conservative economic and ecological rationale has emerged:
The Paris Climate Accord is just too expensive and does not benefit the environment. One more time, terlalu mahal, Tidak baik untuk lingkungan!
The howling from the cushions of the neo-left is likely now reaching a boiling point, but after everyone has a cuppa of lotus-tea to calm the nerves, the point of the Heritage report is not lost.
Can we afford the global schemes that lack substance? Or do we need to engage with captains of industry, rather than whacking them constantly over the head?
Not that they don’t deserve this because they are as much to blame for the policy as are the NGOs and the populist neo-political elite. But, hurray, now production goes into a tailspin, people are for sure expected to lose their jobs, and profits are down, not allowing much needed private investment to enter the conservation process. It poses the question, so what next, oh green wise ones?
Claims by the government officials steps are taken to prevent a loss to the industry is not shared by financial analysts. So far government policies have not delivered the expected outcomes.
The comparison to other basket cases of global populist agri-policy failures is ample. South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Philippines or South America. Zimbabwe stands out. In an article in the Atlantic in 2003 called the ‘Ten steps to kill a country” bears striking resemblance to some of the NGO actions in Indonesia of today: Destroy the engine of productivity, Bury the truth, Crush dissent, Legislate the impossible, Teach hate, and Blame the imperialists.
NGO campaigns succeeded to destroy the engine of productivity. The lack of credible science managed to bury the truth about claims of possible 100,000 people died from the 2015 haze is just one of the endless examples of gross exaggeration. The nonsense forced Indonesian health officials to deny it but the top of the Jokowi’s administration remained mum. Economic losses are equally aggravated, reports from the World Bank are distorted and dissent by the industry crushed by legislating the impossible. NGOs regularly spew hate and the blame of the colonists are returning is an NGO scene favorite.
The eco-hysteria hasn’t solved the problem and eventually, the NGOs and the Minister of Forestry are running out of people to blame. Well, alternatively we can either shoot them, as some military official suggested or follow the Guardian example of not producing more babies. An equal mad-hater scheme.
The divide and distrust between the Jokowi administration and the industry are widening. Despite all the great promises by the eco-consultancies and foreign NGOs so far the results are bleak. The schemes, packaged in new phrases and hyperbolic lingo lack the evidence. The industry is incapable to comprehend the consequence and attempts to buy its NGO experts from exactly the same crowd that just caused the Indonesian and Malaysian corporations billions and forced to lay off Indonesians.
While the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord was a move to protect US interests, other world leaders in the region should look inward and take heed. Sadly, such self-preserving prescience is lost on the blinder-driven eco-warriors of the current administration. While we are not suggesting isolationism, either political or economical, a lot more critical examination of foreign NGO ideologies is needed.
Instead of looking out for his own people by safeguarding the country’s economy, the current policy of the administration has chosen the path of punishing domestic industry, soon to be unable to fill state coffers. Such a path neatly fits with the euro-socialist narrative and is easier to pursue than recognizing the existential threat foreign NGOs pose to the economic and social stability of Indonesia.
The Heritage Foundation findings are not new or unique. A 2011 University of Tokyo study on palm oil came to a similar conclusion. “A Dutch-based NGO was the primary cause of the loss of Indonesian market share,” wrote Dr. Amzul Rifin. This is a view reflected in an independent 2015 Malaysian study.
In light of the EU ban on Indonesian palm oil, team-Jokowi is now faced with a severe uphill battle against the EU over a virulent and unabating anti-palm oil/anti-Indonesian NGO narrative.
An academic who studies extremist civil society groups said, “It is a bit of a lone voice in the wilderness, trying to convince executives and policy officials who can’t understand the threat these groups pose. But eventually, critical examination by policy officials will trigger a response. The pressure tactics to get the ‘monkey off their back’ have not worked and costs the government, industry, and the economy billions.”
The academic added, “It requires deep understanding to dissect the complex relationship between networks, actors, and generations of battle-hardened activists who were often jailed for their actions. Essentially, NGO behavior is identical to that of a subversive, underground movement. They regularly collect intelligence, select, and study their targets in-depth before they engage in a wide range of actions using proxy actors, including radical and extremist domestic groups. The groups labeled as Global Action Networks are intertwined, collude and harm. Destroying a company or a market is often seen as a sport.” He opined, “Posing as NGO-consultants often conceals their true motivation and represent a new trend. But they promote a green-leftist ideology and seldom benefits the economic performance or enhances shareholder value.”
Some NGOs receive massive state funding from EU member states, as well as Norway and Finland. Oversight of this funding is poor, as was documented in a 2016 US Senate report.
Such NGO interference has ramifications beyond the merely economic, and the state-sponsors are not only in the EU. The US State Department was caught red-handed providing close to 350 million USD to an NGO bent on swaying the 2015 Israeli elections. A US Senate subcommittee investigation report states, “The campaign’s goal was to elect ‘anybody but Bibi [Netanyahu]’ by mobilizing center-left voters.” Similar domestic interference in Indonesia is documented.
In 2014, the groundbreaking US Senate report titled, The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA provides insight into how US funds paid for Indonesian NGOs to ensure no Indonesian commodities achieve EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certification. A former SBY official and founder of a legal NGO received US funds as part of this effort.
The path of foreign influence peddling can be seen almost daily. Media, “traveling consultants,” and “eco-service” providers have created a lucrative niche market for themselves. Funded by the Ford Foundation and through CLUA, “the line between funding and interfering in domestic affairs is thin, if not evaporated,” opined one lawmaker in Jakarta.
Late December 2016, the Norwegian ambassador to Indonesia was recalled over a sexual affair involving NGOs funded by the Norwegian government, a scandal that reinvigorated calls by the public to investigate foreign funding of Indonesian NGOs. Although no evidence was found of the ambassador breaking Norwegian law he was sacked from the ambassador job.
Greenpeace, despite its denials that it does not take money from companies and/or governments, has received 2 million USD from the Ford Foundation, public records show. But this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, says one observer. The list of foreign donors to left-wing NGOs is long and, as the aforementioned US Senate report concluded, the environmental agenda is nothing more than a front for promoting economically paralyzing socialist narratives.
The environmental left is adept at covering its financial tracks. However, this institutional obfuscation may soon wither. Canadian forest giant Resolute Forest Products remains embroiled in a RICO suit against Greenpeace in US Federal Court, a key objective of which is to gain access to Greenpeace financial records. Greenpeace is confident it will beat the federal racketeering charge. Granting the application would be a true test if the courts are unbiased.
Greenpeace’s financial transparency is spotty at best, money laundering at worst. The Daily Caller wrote, “Greenpeace [was] making things up,” and accused the NGO of “rhetorical hyperbole” and “subjective opinions.” Greenpeace lawyers referenced these statements in the Resolute RICO case. A comparison between the Greenpeace narrative and the facts presented in court can be found here.
A European research center based in Asia thinks the Greenpeace “mafia law” case underpins the seriousness of the charges applicable to Indonesia, Malaysia, and China.
In a policy publication made available to view, the Jakarta-based policy center wrote, “Whereas collectively executives from the industry, the public, and policy officials agree on protecting the environment, the NGO visions are packaged in stark, often extremist visions that promote a system collapse and visions of a dystopian New World Order.”
“Many within NGO leadership and activist circles hold radical, even extremist views, and many fantasize of a revival of neo-socialism in Indonesia while openly associating with a confusing array of Maoists, Blanquists, Trotskyites, and other extremists.”
The report continues, “…Supporters of separatist movements in Papua, for example, activists associated with eco-service providers, have established forward operating offices Singapore. The timber industry and EU funding, who hope to engage these groups will solve the company’s problem, pay for these services unwittingly funding a Trojan horse type of operation targeting the corporations. A pseudo research group that consists exclusively of activists funded by the European wing of the US Climate Land Use Alliance targets the financial sector to pursue a divestment campaign which crippled the South African economy. From this base, these activists run their eco-guerilla war under the guise of a financial divestment campaign against Asian businesses and banks located in the Southeast Asian banking center. In light of this blatantly subversive activity, Indonesian security services and the powerful Indonesian army have been watching the influx of foreign NGO groups to Papua with growing concern….”
It opines, “…Malaysian and Indonesian executives are lost in the array of bewildering claims made by the NGOs. Their attempts to “buy eco-services” in an effort to negate the threats have so far failed miserably. Critical examination shows that none of the efforts towards sustainability preached by NGOs and their proxy service providers have actually worked…. A system-change/system-collapse scenario, as promoted by Greenpeace or nihilist leftist extremist groups such as EarthFirst!, is being pursued daily with a voracious appetite of self-righteousness, regardless of the economic cost of Indonesian and Malaysian farmers, plantation workers, societies or national economic consequences.”
A report by the Forest Peoples Programme examining Greenpeace’s program highlighted the point. A farmer who threatened a Greenpeace activist quoting, “..he [the farmer] rather burns the forest down instead of following some idiotic concept of not planting food.” The farmer’s question, “how am I going to feed my family?” was met with a Greenpeace activist replying, because “the president said so.”
This utter disregard of the plight of the Indonesian farmer shows in a shocking manner the deeply flawed ideology espoused by NGOs and the harm caused by its “do-gooder” interference in the economic livelihood of farming communities.
The report continues, “Foreign NGOs are still viewed with pink glasses often based on a lazy, naive narrative of not accepting the ill-boding intent the groups and former activists pose. The executives in the Indonesian industry and policy officials share an equal part of the blame. The Indian government stance of viewing Greenpeace and foreign donors as a threat to national economic security is lost in the Southeast Asia business and political scene, the key target for NGO actions. Policy makers in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur should pause and re-evaluate these organizations as the governments in New Zealand, Canada, India, China and the Russian Federation have.”
The report added, “The US federal RICO lawsuit brought against Greenpeace and some of its proxy structures, even if dismissed, is a tell tale sign of the severity of the threat the foreign NGOs pose to domestic, economic, and stability for communities. The blasé attitudes by policy bodies are the result of a lack of comprehension by executives who pay for services, which in turn causes civil and social unrest. In other words, the victim is extorted willingly by the offender.”
The hostile relationship between NGOs and the industry was also identified in a study carried out in collaboration with the Australian government. The study found that, “The relationships between NGOs and the private sector are underdeveloped, and NGOs see the private sector as an adversary.”
The linkages between “activism, political influence peddling, the use of agents provocateurs, influence agents and pseudo ‘facilitation’ groups of former NGOs actors now posing as pseudo-commercial bodies, does not conceal the true nature of their purpose and aims of radical system change. Funded by foreign interests such as CLUA, both the industry and political leaders in the region lack the critical eye to decipher the true political motivation of the often leftist, socialist agendas not native to the region.”
If the Jokowi administration achieves its activist-inspired restoration fantasy and removes 400,000 ha from the production concessions the effect on the already depressed Indonesian economy by way of lost foreign income and diminished market share would be catastrophic. Cutting private sector spending and creating a new wave of unemployed Indonesians will sit not well with the rural agrarian communities.
At the end, to quote former US President Bill Clinton, it’s the economy of the forestry industry, dummy!