- Growing Apart: Oil, Politics and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria
At a time of heightened concern at the failure of some well-endowed countries to develop, this book presents a systematic comparative perspective on two resource-rich, oil-exporting countries: Nigeria and Indonesia. Drawing on two regionally pivotal states that commenced the “development journey” at approximately the same time and level, Peter Lewis examines the ways in which political factors, actors, and institutions have nurtured—but largely subverted—economic growth. From this analysis of the politics of economic development, Indonesia has recorded better economic growth over four decades, in part because of the regional context, governance, leadership, economic policies, and strategies.
Organized into nine chapters, the book differentiates Indonesia— “distinguished by impressive accomplishments and abrupt decline”—from Nigeria—notable “for the depth and persistence of its economic failure” (3). This lays the foundation for the theoretical assumptions that underpin the book, explored in the third chapter. Chapters 4 and 5 dwell on the history of economic growth in Indonesia and Nigeria, while chapter 6, drawing on economic data, explains why Indonesia outperformed Nigeria. Continuing the logic of paired comparisons, chapters 7 and 8 explore the effects of marketbased economic reforms, trace the transition(s) from postauthoritarianism to multiparty democracy in Indonesia and Nigeria, and begin a discussion on the requirements for successful economic growth. The concluding chapter sums up the case for addressing the challenge of a political economy of development in both countries, asserting that “economic development rests upon politically negotiated institutions” (295). Growing Apart shows how state-led capitalism, though pursued differently in two cases, has led nonetheless to the same unsatisfactory economic performance (with Nigeria performing worse), with largely similar political factors implicated in the failure of institutions to bring about political coherence, stability, and sustained economic growth.
There are, however, some gaps in the study. First, no consideration is given to the vital place of Indonesia in the Southeast Asia strategic games and the effect of the Cold War on Suharto’s politics. Second, the book focuses on the representation of the severe shortcomings inherent in Nigeria’s political economy, but pays little attention to the role of prodemocracy civil society groups and local opposition in resisting military rule within a pernicious economic regime. The use of rather broad brush strokes to describe elite politics and to underplay the democratic potential at the grassroots in both countries to some extent blocks a proper and nuanced [End Page 198] understanding of the complex political processes and forces at play, and of how they in turn affect the economy.
Resorting to neopatrimonialism as an explanatory paradigm based on the depredations of personalist rule opens the book to the criticism that it is beholden to the thesis of the criminalization of the state—thus associating state failure in Africa and Asia with predatory elites, institutional weakness, and misrule. Yet such a paradigm provides only a reductionist, descriptive account of politics, without addressing historical specificities or explaining the role of external/transnational interventionist policies and actors. Placing the entire blame for the failure of neoliberal economic reforms on the corruption of the ruling elites, on institutional weakness, and on policy flip flops reveals the economic liberalism that defines the author’s analysis and the values that the study seeks to promote.
Such gaps and ideological values notwithstanding, the author’s task of “examining the relationships among politics, institutional change, and economic growth in Indonesia and Nigeria” (4) is brilliantly executed. This well-researched book is essential for scholars, policymakers, students, and all those keen on understanding the politics and crisis of development in the third world, drawing on the experiences of two important cases: Indonesia and Nigeria.