The Asian Crisis and the Forests of Indonesia


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Over two years have passed since Thailand devalued the baht and Asia’s economies tumbled into their worst crisis since World War II. The time has come to take stock and pull out lessons from the experience. William Sunderlin’s ’The Effects of Economic Crisis and Political Change on Indonesia’ Forest Sector, 1997-99’ does just that. Drawing from several recent studies produced by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), it examines how the crisis has affected both Indonesia’s forests and the people who depend on them.

Among its major findings are that:

Two-thirds of the people in forested areas have become worse off during the crisis.

Small farmers cleared more forest in 1998-99 than previously, particularly for tree crops.

Illegal logging has boomed since the crisis, although the problem began well before that.

Oil palm expansion initially slowed during the crisis, but may be poised for faster growth.

The crisis pushed down plywood prices and hastened plywood’s substitution by pulp and paper as Indonesia’s number one forest product export.

The crisis has meant less funds for transmigration efforts and road building near forests.

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Further reading

If you would like to request a free electronic copy of Sunderlin’s paper please write Ambar Liano at

To send comments to the author, write William Sunderlin at