US economist Steve Hanke was asked by President Suharto to mount a public charm offensive this week to win popular support for his controversial currency board idea. Instead, Mr Hanke ended up offending the very people he was supposed to impress. The Johns Hopkins University associate professor slammed financial analysts, the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union for criticising his ideas and implied that none of them knew what they were talking about. On Monday, Mr Hanke said analysts who disagreed with him were 'whacko'. Yesterday, he was at it again, addressing businessmen, analysts and financial journalists in Jakarta. 'Most of what you read in the press is largely wrong because journalists talk to economists and they don't know what they are saying,' Mr Hanke said yesterday. 'Analysts are part of the chattering classes . . . they are talking all the time and not looking at the facts,' he said. As for criticism by the IMF, US and EU: 'It is a complete mystery to me why they are against it.' Mr Hanke said he could not understand claims that a currency board system would breach Indonesia's IMF reform commitments. 'This [sticking to commitments] is something, of course, President Suharto wanted to make certain of.' Mr Hanke said the president stood by proposals for an exchange rate mechanism which could be ready to implement within three weeks. Critics said soaring interest rates which would result from putting such a mechanism in place could prove fatal for Indonesia's fragile banking sector. Mr Hanke said they were wrong. 'Analysts have not really studied exchange rate systems in any detail and don't know what they are talking about,' he said. Giving a university-style lecture, Mr Hanke said interest rates fell in all countries which adopted currency boards. 'If you are taking an exam and you say interest rates are going to go up [when you implement a CBS], you are not going to pass the exam,' he said, pointing to a string of graphics. He cited a litany of cases, from 1912 to July last year when Bulgaria adopted a CBS, in which interest rates had fallen. Asked how much foreign reserves Indonesia would need to make a CBS work, Mr Hanke said he had yet to complete an evaluation. The question was irrelevant as a country could get by without any at all, he said. This was the case when Argentina backed the bank notes it printed with gold when it adopted a currency board shortly before World War I. Continuing the history lesson, Mr Hanke said Argentina's first currency board system did only last for two years. Which only left the audience guessing how long an Indonesian experiment would survive.