If the old dictum that you can't please everybody is true, then
is right there. At least three groups are pursuing mutually exclusive paths. The first is the student activists. Yesterday they won a powerful endorsement from the
party -- 28 million strong. Also they gave blood when the government's troops opened fire and killed a student. You know it's ugly when they are tossing Molotov cocktails around. Suharto may end up being thrown out of office by the students. They have religious backing and a martyr. Now all they need is a leader. The irony is that student uprisings were a key factor in Suharto taking power from the pervious strongman,
The second constituency is the corrupt old guard, of which the famous family and their cronies are a part. It seems that the
attempt to reform the economy through wholesale dismantling of the cartels -- such as the famous palm oil cartel and clove monopoly -- is being circumvented. All kinds of cute tricks are being reported -- the sort of thing that emphasizes the extent of the local advantage that the aristocracy has over the IMF. And they seem to be doing it right under the IMF's nose and then bragging about it by publishing it in the local newspapers!
Which brings us to the third front -- the IMF. Watch for the next IMF review on May 4. Indonesia has special problems from the IMF. Getting openly bamboozled by these Indonesians is not going to help the Fund with its difficulties with the
. Nor will the IMF look particularly good if Suharto gets the boot. Come to think about it, if Suharto is overthrown, what should the IMF do? Continue with the next chunk of the loan, or wait to see what kind of new regime follows him? In a very real sense -- and this is most certainly getting very far ahead of the story -- the IMF might be in a kingmaker role if Suharto pulls a
Yet Another Japanese Name Speaks Up
Say hello to
, a professor at
, recently named to the monetary policy committee at the
Bank of Japan
. One interview on financial TV and the guy has everyone in an uproar. What did he do to get so many people -- especially Mr. Yen -- going? He spoke his mind! Among other things, he said that Japan was on the brink of a recession. (I think the modifier was deleted -- maybe even "serious" is too faint. Actually, I prefer depression over recession.) He favors a cut in the
Official Discount Rate
if things get worse -- just the opposite of the
camp, which wants to raise the rate. And last but not least, he says that another 5% to 10% fall in the yen would not pose any large economic risk. Forget the policy committee and make this guy the governor. I wonder how much longer he will get away with speaking up like this.
popularity is scraping bottom -- a 28% approval rating according to today's
. Should he be replaced? According to the survey, 57% think he should. Remember when the Brits stated calling
the "gray man?" Well, in Japan, we have the "faceless" prime minister. That is his new nickname, pinned on him by Japan's largest newspaper, the
(once his strongest supporter). In fact (and I am relying on a translation), they even called him "a wishy-washy prime minister." Well it's not quite as bad as getting called a "scum bag" -- as
did last week by one member of Congress -- but I'm sure it hurts anyway.
David DeRosa heads a trading research firm and is an adjunct professor at the Yale School of Management. His column on international finance and trading appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He welcomes your feedback at