Riots, looting and mass demonstrations had erupted in major cities across the country. Money was fleeing the country and businessmen ran for the exit. The future looked bleak and chaos was the order of the day.
Fifteen years on, Indonesia is a nation transformed. It is the darling of foreign investors and a member of the G-20 group of largest economies in the world. It is a thriving democracy and a respected voice in regional and global affairs. Businesses are booming and a young middle class is rising.
Those chaotic days seem a distant memory now as a free press and an engaged civil society have led to political stability. The country has had two rounds of free and direct presidential and parliamentary elections without violence.
Indonesians have every reason to be proud of their nation and what it has achieved over the past 15 years. It took courage and strong leadership with a dose of luck to turn the country around and to move from a near basket case to a fast-growing economy.
But even as we bask in our achievements, we must look to the future and what the next 15 years will bring for the nation. It will face new challenges that will need fresh thinking and innovative policies. The country must reform its education system so that we can ensure that our people have the capability of rising to the challenge.
Most importantly, we will need extraordinary leaders to take the country further forward and to establish it in the ranks of the top-10 economies in the world. We have come far but much hard work still lies ahead. Editorial Jakarta Globe