In memory of Dr. Arifin Siregar, 1934-2019
A consummate professional, the former Bank Indonesia (BI) Governor and former Minister of Trade, never tire in maintaining Indonesia’s relation with the international community. Even in his later years, he continued to serve as a member of the advisory board at EKONID, as well as various advisory positions in other public and private enterprises.
“Let us disregard all the less pleasant events which have taken place in our history and look instead to the future with a highly positive attitude and build a relationship between [..] nations based on mutual respect and benefit,” Dr. Siregar said in his acceptance speech of the prestigious Linggardjati award in April 2015.
To Dr. Siregar, who is widely known as a champion of international trade, and, in his own words, have had the “privilege” of studying in the Netherlands, as well as in Germany, any form of deterioration in relations between Indonesia and any foreign country was an unwelcomed prospect.
Born in Medan, North Sumatra, in 1934, Dr. Siregar graduated from the Dutch CAS Lyceum in Jakarta in 1953 before heading to the Netherlands to study business economics at the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH) in Rotterdam that same year. He would later finish his studies at the Münster University in Germany, where he obtained his Masters Degree and PhD in economics (magna cum laude) in 1958 and 1960 respectively.
Throughout his career, Dr. Siregar has built a strong reputation as an economist; starting with his work as researcher at the Institut fur Industriewirtschaftliche Forschung, at his alma mater in Germany. He spent a few more years honing his skills as an economist at the United Nations Bureau of General Economic Research and Policies in New York, United States (1961-1963) and then the International Monetary Fund (1965-1971).
Dr. Siregar took on the position as Deputy Governor of BI from 1971-1983, and became its Governor from 1983-1988. During this time, he played a crucial role in managing global economic shocks, such as by convincing then President Soeharto to devalue the rupiah to counter the 1980s oil glut despite Soeharto’s earlier pledge not to.
In another demonstration of his awareness of the importance of international trade, he was among the first to implement deregulation policies that opened up Indonesia’s economy to the rest of the world, after he was appointed to serve as Minister of Trade (1988-1993).
His final years as a public servant was spent in the prestigious position of being the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, which ended with the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 and the Indonesian government shake-up that subsequently followed.
Dr. Siregar continued his efforts in maintaining Indonesia’s relations with other countries; he was Chief Advisor or a member of Indonesian delegations to important international and regional conferences, such as APEC and the GATT Uruguay Round. Past his public service period, he remained a member of the Board of Governors of the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines, a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, and the Co-Chairman of the US-Indonesia Society (USINDO).
Notably, Dr. Siregar was the Chairman of the Board of Management of EKONID from 1999-2001 and he remained a member of EKONID’s Advisory Board until his passing on September 23, 2019 at the age of 85.