A Subud World Bank – Can We Begin Again?

Rashad Pollard writes to ask if the idea of a World Bank can be resurrected...

RashadAThe most memorable thing that comes to my mind concerning our Subud World Bank was something that Raymond Lee had reported. It seems that not long before Bapak passed away he had said that one thing he most regretted was that we were unable to sustain the operations of our World Bank.

What then was this World Bank?

The first personal reference I have for it was at the Third Subud World Congress in Tokyo in 1967 when it was agreed to establish the Subud Brotherhood International Foundation (SBIF). The purpose mentioned for SBIF was to administer Subud funds on a professional basis and that Bapak had said that it could form a nucleus for a Subud World Bank.

Four years later, at the World Congress in Cilandak Bapak moved this idea to fruition through getting us all to line up and pledge funds to start this World Bank. Ultimately about $1.4 million was raised. At the last talk given at the Congress Bapak stated:

"So our aim and purpose is to establish enterprises and a bank. For if we merely wait for contributions and donations from members, maybe there will be only ten rupiahs in the treasury ten years from now. Only that little. But it will be otherwise with enterprises. Perhaps contributions will be eliminated eventually, will not be needed, because the Subud treasury will have become strong as a result of running the enterprises and the bank. Who knows, brothers and sisters, if the Subud Bank will not eventually become like those in New York, a Wall Street Bank - but a Subud Wall Street Bank, a Wall Street Bank Kejiwaan!" Library reference 71 TJD 18.

The original team that worked to set up the bank expected to locate it in Germany but this proved difficult to accomplish owing to cost factors and regulations in that country so, eventually, it was agreed to establish it in Indonesia through purchasing the license of an existing bank there. In this way Bank Susila Bakti (BSB) was born.

BSB certainly assisted many enterprises in Indonesia -- even including a hand-weaving enterprise that my wife and I started -- but its most important contribution was to help launch the second major enterprise that Bapak initiated -- the S.Widjojo Centre office building in Jakarta. BSB pre-purchased the mezzanine floor of the building and it was these funds that allowed S.Widjojo to acquire the land so that construction could start. BSB also provided short-term loans to support the development of the project. One wonderful day - certainly for me as the Marketing Manager of S.Widjojo -- was the day in 1977 when the bank moved into its space even though the building was still being constructed around them! It was from that day onwards that tenants became confident about our ability to complete the building and began to sign leases themselves! [Bapak's interesting talk at the ‘selamatan’ that day is at 77 JKT 1].

SWidjojoBuildingThe S.Widjojo Centre was eventually completed at the end of 1980 and the company started sending over $800,000 back to its Subud investors every year of which $200,000 was contributed to Subud (WSA and SBIF). In this way Bapak's hopes for establishing a world bank and enterprises had certainly been accomplished as a model for us to follow.

BSB did suffer from some constraints, however. It could not, legally, allow its non-Indonesian executive directors to act as such and so management conflicts developed between these two groups of ‘de facto’ directors that had been established. It was also not easy for the bank to support enterprises outside of Indonesia. These issues came to a head at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the bank held in 1984 when the shareholders voted to expand the Board of BSB to help strengthen the bank's future development. I supported this motion as did Bapak -- his comments are at 84 JKT 5. But this step was never taken, and was overtaken by other events at S.Widjojo.

S.Widjojo had committed itself to build a major hotel project in Jakarta and had borrowed about $8 million to purchase the land for it. However this project was never realized and S.Widjojo became unable to service this loan. Efforts to sell the land resulted in an offer to purchase not only the hotel land but also our bank. My own understanding is that it was felt by the Board members of our bank and of S.Widjojo that it would make sense to keep the S.Widjojo building, rather than liquidate it and keep the bank! So it was agreed and the funds obtained from these sales allowed S.Widjojo to repay the loan it had and remain in business. The shareholders of BSB received the funds from that sale.

In this way, in 1986, our world bank was sold and this became a first step in a range of events that eventually involved the demise of all our major enterprises, including S.Widjojo, excepting the mining exploration work in Kalimantan that still proceeded.

Not a few members have tried to rekindle the concept of our experts coming together to launch new, major enterprises supported by a new world bank or financial institution. But since Bapak's passing our Association has preferred to put such activities on hold and our World Congresses barely touched on the subject that had become such a core emphasis in all our Congresses while Bapak was with us.

At the New Zealand Subud World Congress the first steps were taken to explore the prospects for starting again. SESI was resurrected and tasked with this mandate. SESI, itself, cannot start a new world bank or world financial institution or even an enterprise. Its task is to motivate our experts to undertake these activities and to provide whatever support is needed to help this happen. A new world bank or financial institution could only be initiated by a dedicated team of banking and financial experts. SESI can help to bring that team together however and so we can proceed if a truly competent group can be formed to explore this option and raise the initial funding needed to produce a comprehensive feasibility study.

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