By Jakarta Correspondent Jonathan Head.
President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie owes his rise to power
entirely to his close friendship with former President Suharto. Born on the
island of Sulawesi in 1936, his family got to know Suharto, who was posted
there as a military officer in the 1950s.
Mr Suharto took the young Habibie, an
aspiring engineer, under his wing. Mr Habibie went to Germany for further
training where he became a director of a large aerospace company. Mr Habibie
came back to Indonesia in the 1970s convinced that he could help his country
leap-frog from being a poor agricultural economy to one based on high
"The basis of any modern economy is in their capability of using their renewable human resources. The best renewable human resources are those human resources which are in a position to contribute to a product which uses a mixture of high-tech."
Planes and power
The theory convinced President Suharto. In the mid-1970s he gave his protege his own government department and unlimited funds to build South East
Asia's first aircraft industry.
|Habibie when vice president as seen by a political cartoonist|
Critics accused Mr Habibie of building aircraft no-one wanted, and of not understanding economics. The armed forces disliked having to
buy his products. But with Mr Suharto's full backing, Mr Habibie could not be
Three magazines that criticised him in 1994 were closed down. He went on to head an influential government-backed organisation of muslim
But Mr Habibie does have his admirers inside Indonesia. His projects are
always presented as national achievements to the Indonesian public, and he has
courted senior Islamic figures.
Achmad Tirto Sudiro, leading member of the Habibie-sponsored Islamic Intellectuals Association: "He has now shown that he has the ability to achieve something. I am of the opinion that he has the vision of how to build this country in the future."
|Habibie now has his own website|
In the past Mr Habibie had always denied he had his eye on the top job:
"No, to be frank. I am only interested in the answer to where should I be to
give the maximum contribution to my society and the human race. But I am sure
that until my last minutes of being alive, I will always dedicate myself to my
When President Suharto suggested Mr Habibie as his choice of
vice president in February 1998, the value of the Indonesian currency fell to an
all-time low because of fears over his eccentric economic theories.
His appointment as president caused some alarm in business circles and
dismayed those who wanted an end to the corruption and cronyism which
characterised Mr Suharto's rule.