Articles by Elizabeth Pisani

Indonesia has great data on COVID. Does anyone want to look at it?

For months, Indonesia’s “pray-for-prevention” Health Minister and “virus-free-vaccation” President pretended that the country was shielded by some miraculous force-field from the pandemic that was consuming much of the world. For months, most thinking people in Indonesia and elsewhere have know that was absolute nonsense. The country was able to maintain its claims that it had virtually no [confirmed!] cases because it was doing virtually no testing. A few people, including Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, was more realistic about the dangers,…


The Indonesian government forgot to buy medicines. Now what?

More long silence from Elizabeth. Sorry. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about Indonesia. It’s that I’ve been focusing on just one thing: the quality of the medicines in the Indonesian market. With wonderful colleagues like Amalia Hasnida, Yusi Anggriani and Sari Dewi, we’ve been trying to figure out why people make low quality medicines, and why people sell and take them. It’s a complicated story, especially in Indonesia, but Tempo’s cover story this week highlights an important part…



Clowns demand more of Indonesia’s political circus

Indonesia always does well in the Department of #YouCouldn’tMakeItUp. Exhibit A: this article from the Jakarta Globe about clowns marching for political peace. There’s so much about this story that delights me: That Indonesia even has a national clown’s association (and one that has almost as many members as the House of Representatives). That the Jakarta police felt the need to deploy 60 police officers “to ensure the clowns could march safely to Monas.” But mostly of course: That Sumarsono,…


Indonesian kids are starving to death: where are the health services?

2018 started badly for children in Indonesian Papua; though it’s a miraculously fertile province, at least 70 children in the Asmat district died of malnutrition in December and January, and measles and other vaccine-preventable infections are running high. We know about this because Kompas, Indonesia’s leading paper, sent reporters to Asmat to spotlight the crisis. But in truth, it’s probably been going on for a very long time. And it’s probably happening in other parts of Indonesia too; the health…


Don’t make martyrs of religious-themed thugs: lessons from Egypt

Welcome to 2018, which will doubtless be a year of political speculation ahead of the 2019 presidential elections. I spent New Year’s Day kayaking down the Nile. (Off-topic alert: if you’re looking for a truly fabulous holiday that combines decent exercise in great landscapes with a good dollop of ancient culture, check out the Nile Kayak Club’s trips from Aswan to Luxor.) While paddling, I chatted with newly-met Egyptian friends about the pariah status of the Moslem Brotherhood, which is…


In memory of 170,000 Indonesians. Or not.

“Living in the moment” is all the rage, and Indonesians excel at it. But is it ok to forget the lessons of the past, or to ignore predictable threats in the future? With 22 out of Indonesian’s 22 tsunami warning buoys neglected into inaction, I wonder…


Is invisibility the price of success for Indonesia?

To celebrate Indonesia’s 72nd birthday, I post a talk I gave at TED Global in 2014, musing about why the country was so invisible internationally. I reasoned that successful multi-cultural democracies don’t make the headlines. Would I give the same talk now?



Indonesian president encourages extra-judicial killings (foreigners preferred)

What is it with Indonesians and the law? It seems to me the country is beset with enthusiasm for purely symbolic laws, coupled with an utter disdain for the actual law. The photo above, taken in the Maduran town of Sumenep by my friend and colleague Michael Buehler, provides a delightful, home-made example of the first. Here’s a closer look: “Forbidden to have a traffic accident here!” it declares, above a gaping hole in the road. And then it gives…