HW Arndt (seated, centre) in the late 1980s, with six of his students (clockwise from bottom left: Anne Booth, Andrew Elek, Howard Dick, Hal Hill, Chris Manning and Peter McCawley).

HW Arndt (seated, centre) in the late 1980s, with six of his students (clockwise from bottom left: Anne Booth, Andrew Elek, Howard Dick, Hal Hill, Chris Manning and Peter McCawley).

Building an economic research powerhouse

ANU has become a leading global centre for Indonesian economic studies during the past 50 years. But its catalyst came out of unusual circumstances, as COLIN BROWN uncovers.

When Professor Heinz Arndt suggested ANU should start researching Indonesia's economy in the mid-1960s, he was confident and bold.

Yet Arndt had no known interest in the Indonesian economy.

He had never even visited the country. 

And he chose an unlikely era to start a major research project. Under President Sukarno, Indonesia's budget was a state secret, economic data was difficult to obtain and of dubious reliability and inflation was astronomically high.

As an expert of the Australian banking system and Head of Economics at the then ANU Research School of Pacific Studies, Arndt knew economic policy.

So when Sir John Crawford, Director of the School, received a memorandum from Arndt simply titled "Indonesia Project", he knew he should take it seriously.