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President B.J Habibie bade farewell to 1998 as he called on the nation to reflect on the tumult and violence of 1998, and to welcome 1999 with a sense of hope. 
"What is wrong with this nation?" Habibie asked in a speech broadcast nationwide on Thursday. 
"Why have we suddenly become so intimate with violence? Ours is supposed to be a civilized nation with great respect for ethics and morality. 
"At the end of this 1998, let's all reflect on some of the dark sides to our lives," he said. Habibie, who replaced Soeharto in May at the peak of political turmoil and a major economic crisis, described 1998 as a year filled with concerns. He underlined rising unemployment, the increasing number of people impoverished, social and political instability as well as disruption to security and order among the major problems that the government has yet to come to terms with. The President called on the people to be optimistic in ushering in 1999. "No matter how hard the challenge we have to face, we need to be confident that God will always be with us. God willing, we will overcome every challenge as best we can through hard work and a spirit of endurance and determination." He underlined the need for the nation to forge unity and to show greater restraint in facing the difficult tasks ahead. 
"Let’s foster perseverance and clear thinking. Let's not act hastily and recklessly for that will only make things even more difficult." Habibie said the government's economic policies were slowly bearing fruit, although they were still far from expectations. He pointed out that shortages in basic foodstuffs had been overcome, inflation had been brought under control, and the rupiah's exchange rate had been stabilized. 
Goods were moving in and out of the country again, and interest rates had begun declining, he said. These improvements, he added, had prevented the economy from "plunging deeper into the ravine" and helped restore confidence among Indonesia's foreign creditors and investors. Habibie said the government would continue to pursue the reform agenda established by the People’s Consultative Assembly in its Special Session in November. One major item in that agenda is the general election in June, which he said would reinvigorate Indonesia's democratic tradition. "We all hope that this general election will be honest, democratic and just. 
"We all have to accept results, whatever they may be, with an open heart. The new government formed will truly reflect the people's aspirations, so that we can end this political crisis. It is not the intention of this government to maintain the political status quo. We will leave it all to the democratic mechanism in line with the people’s sovereignty principle as set out in the 1945 Constitution," he said. 
Habibie later declared 1999 the Year of Artisanship and Engineering as part of his policy of promoting the "people's economy". The former technology czar said cottage industry is one of the economic sectors that could absorb large numbers of workers. 
"Artisanship embodies the creativity, feeling and strength of the Indonesian people which, given the support of technological engineering, could produce works that are the pride of the nation," said the German trained aircraft engineer. He did not give details of any specific government program to promote this year of Artisanship and Engineering. The just ended 1998 passed off with few traces that it had been the Year of Art and Culture as declared by Habibie’s predecessor Soeharto. Several art and cultural events held during the year were disrupted, or over-shadowed, by the political turmoil and economic crisis. 
Habibie however underlined that the political change themselves have helped lay the foundations for a solid democratic culture, which will put Indonesia on the path towards a civil society. 


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