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Ruru makes progress amid chaos

Bacelius Ruru seems an unlikely troubleshooter in the rough and tumble world of Indonesia's financial sector, which is plagued by exceptional levels of corporate debt, continuing accusations of corruption and persistent political instability.

Yet the mild-mannered Harvard-educated former bureaucrat has demonstrated that quiet persistence and hard work behind the scenes - plus an approach that emphasizes trust and good corporate governance - can work even in Indonesia.

This month Ruru will take over as chairman of the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSE), after two years serving as the head of the Jakarta Initiative, an independent task force set up to assist creditors and debtors to reschedule Indonesia's private sector foreign debt. Of the $70 billion involved, between 40% and 50% became distressed following the collapse of the currency in 1997.

When Ruru took over the job of tidying up this mess, it was difficult even to estimate the total debt, which was owed to hundreds of creditor banks by thousands of companies. Many businessmen, wiped out by the collapsed currency, went into hiding. Large corporate debtors staged a rearguard action against efforts by the government and foreign creditors to make them bankrupt through the courts.