Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Right Stuff for Captain Indonesia?

By Duncan Graham

Indonesia’s electoral system differs from Australia’s. Presidential hopefuls didn’t seek Legislative Assembly (DPR) seats at the 9 April election - they’ll be facing the people in a direct vote on 9 July. However their parties’ performances are a useful weather vane. Duncan Graham writes from East Java.

There was something unsettling about presidential aspirant Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s performance on Metro TV last week.

The Jakarta Governor looked tired but good naturedly deflected questions about a vice presidential partner following the DPR elections.  The unofficial ‘quick count’ results have given his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), prime position at just under 19 per cent, though way below predictions.

Also on the talk show were former vice president and business tycoon Jusuf Kalla, Minister for State Owned Enterprises and major newspaper chain owner Dahlan Iskan, and Jakarta deputy governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), a political rival.

Earlier there’d been a one-sided embrace between Surya Paloh, the owner of Metro TV and head of the National Democratic Party (NasDem), and a squirming Jokowi; it looked like a white pointer nuzzling a seal.

Powerful men all and keen to ride pillion on Jokowi’s bike, but this was a sideshow.  Absent were the two giants who want the top job.  (The current incumbent, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known as SBY, has served two five-year terms and is constitutionally barred from standing.)

Apart from Jokowi the major contestants are Aburizal Bakrie, corporate tsar and head of Golkar, which ran second with 14.4 per cent, and former general Prabowo Subianto, who heads Gerindra. This came third with 11.9 per cent.  

Both men are zillionaires, relics of the 32-year Soeharto era of crony capitalism and authoritarian control, desperate to get into the Presidential palace. In the next three months Jokowi, who owned a small-town furniture factory, not a media conglomerate in the capital, will be going head-to-head with candidates who don’t have ‘lose’ in their lexicons. These men radiate power at Strontium 90 levels. Should either win the move would be horizontal, just stepping out of one grand office into another. The new uniform would fit their stout forms without tailoring. When slim Jokowi left Metro’s studio for another function, he walked alone through the audience; just an ordinary bloke, not an Alpha male who expects quaking respect as his right.

All fine and egalitarian. But absent was the gravitas, any hint he has the Right Stuff. Being the battlers’ mate with his meet-the-people blusukan walkabouts as Governor of the nation’s capital for the past 18 months has given Jokowi profile, but those days are surely over.  Despite having ‘democracy’ in its title the PDI-P is the fiefdom of first president Soekarno’s daughter Megawati. Now Jokowi must break free from her matronage, to move on. That means up and away.

In 2006 Bakrie was faced with overwhelming expert evidence that his company’s East Java gas well had caused the world’s biggest mud volcano, displacing 40,000 citizens. Then other geologists arrived who blamed natural causes. And the courts agreed. When outraged victims marched to Jakarta demanding compensation their outspoken leader suddenly appeared on a Bakrie TV station, tearfully withdrawing his statements and apologising for insulting the big man’s family. In 2010 the Bakrie Group went into a coal deal with prominent London financier Nat Rothschild. The partnership soured, both sides lost but the Bakries appear to have bested the British financial establishment.

Prabowo, once Soeharto’s son-in-law has an impeccable born-to-rule pedigree; his grandfather played a key role in establishing the nation, and his father was a leading economist. As a Kopassus commander Prabowo fought in East Timor and later led a hostage rescue operation in Papua. If his vaulting ambition hadn’t over-leaped during the 1998 fall of Soeharto he’d probably be considered a national hero. After being discharged from the military for ‘misinterpreting orders’ regarding the alleged kidnapping and torture of activists he fled to exile in Jordan. He returned later and got into business – then politics.  He was Megawati’s running partner in the 2009 election. When that bid failed he started Gerindra (Great Indonesia Movement) which he runs in the style of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Prabowo has been blacklisted by the US for alleged human rights abuses, but who cares?  Not the Gerindra voters in the DPR election who reckon the nation of 240 million needs Captain Indonesia to keep control.

Though few articulate their concerns out loud, the concern is that Jokowi won’t last the distance, that his campaign could falter in a real or contrived crisis requiring a tough guy to ‘rescue’ democracy.

The 9 April election went brilliantly, though the Golput (no show) response was worryingly high at an estimated 34 per cent abstainers. The campaign was mainly benign, more often marked by humour than venom. But that wasn’t the grand event. Security has been boosted at Megawati’s insistence, but Jokowi still seems reluctant to abandon the accessibility that’s taken him so far. 

First president Soekarno survived assassination attempts. He was also hugely popular with the people, but lost power when a failed coup d’état let the army take over. During the 1999 East Timor crisis the military used its standard blacks-ops tactic of arming ‘ninja’ militias to sow discord when third president Habibie had already agreed to a referendum. 

Fourth president Gus Dur was ignored when he ordered Islamic militants to be stopped from sailing to the Moluccas where sectarian violence took the lives of 5,000. These three presidents were civilians.  Second president Soeharto and current president SBY were generals. The Australian Defence Forces may not like its government’s asylum seeker turn-back policies, but no-one expects Tony Abbott’s orders to be disobeyed or his position slandered. But this is Indonesia where the army has always seen its role differently, the protector of the nation’s sacred Unitary State principle from internal threats. That trumps the people’s will every time. 

What authority could Jokowi, who has literally and metaphorically never worn camouflage, exercise over an army that does things its way?  Goodness, the man’s religious credentials are also in question: He’s reputed to be an abangan (nominal Muslim), and a pluralist. Even if no-one primes a bomb or engineers sectarian strife, Jokowi can be neutered by relentless attacks highlighting his deficiencies while promoting his opponents’ proven merits There’ll be no lack of money – or will.

Many Indonesians, including SBY, openly believe in black magic. Expect a dark campaign with battalions of phantoms.

Duncan Graham is a freelance writer and  journalist who lives in both Surabaya, Indonesia and New Zealand. View his site at Indonesia Now.


How Indonesian local governments spend too much on themselves

By Günther Schulze and Bambang Suharnoko Sjahrir

 Indonesian districts spend excessively on their own administration — money that could be spent on delivering public services for the people. The key problem is that democratic accountability is not (yet) sufficiently effective. After the 2001 decentralisation the districts, the third tier of government after center and provinces, are responsible for the provision of basic services such as health, education, and infrastructure and spend around a third of the consolidated government budget. They are therefore important providers of public goods and services, especially for the poor.
On average around 30 per cent of district budgets are absorbed by expenses for district administration, of which 85 per cent go to general government administration and the rest to other administrative functions, such as development planning, unity and local politics, or people and village empowerment (but not to sector administrations such as health or school administrations). This level is excessive by all international standards: administrative spending is double the districts’ average allocation for infrastructure (15 per cent) and the second-biggest budget item after education (34 per cent).

These high levels of administrative spending are persistent: even though Indonesia’s district budgets doubled between 2001–07, and have steeply increased thereafter, the share of administrative spending has declined only slightly since 2005. In absolute terms administrative spending per capita has sharply increased, which is remarkable since many spending items in this category have a strong fixed cost component. For instance, the expenditures for bupatis’ (regent) offices or for travel expenditures should increase only slightly with rising budget levels.

What explains these persistently excessive levels of administrative spending?

A recent study analyses this issue using data for 399 districts over the time period 2001–09. One line of explanation could be the emergence of new districts (pemekaran) and the need to establish new administrations. Yet, the evidence shows that the splitting of districts is not the reason for high spending levels. Newly created districts do not spend more per capita on administration during the start-up phase, only the composition of administrative expenditure is different. New districts have a higher share of capital expenditure and a lower share of staff expenditure as they still have to build up physical infrastructure and hire personnel.

A prime explanation is bureaucratic self-interest and a lack of accountability. Bureaucrats and local politicians profit from larger offices — both literally and in terms of the number of people employed — and from bigger budgets as they provide more convenience and more possibilities to employ family members or to accommodate the wishes of key allies and constituencies. This is true for all bureaus of the district government, but since a district’s central bureau is politically more powerful than the others it has better opportunities to lobby for big budgets and thus a greater propensity towards wasteful spending.

This administrative overspending is a wasteful activity as it directs funds away from the provision of public services towards uses that benefit the bureaucrats and politicians in power, but not the people. As such it constitutes a form of ‘legal corruption’ (the World Bank defines corruption as ‘misuse of public office for private gain’). Such waste can be avoided if governments are held accountable.
Decentralisation in Indonesia in 2001 replaced bureaucratic accountability to the central government with democratic accountability to the local electorate. If democratic accountability works at the local level, increasing democratisation should rein in the excessive administrative spending.

Two distinct steps towards more democratisation have taken place in Indonesia: the elections of district heads by the democratically elected local parliaments, and subsequently the direct elections of district heads by the local electorate. The incumbent district heads that had been  appointed under Suharto  were allowed to serve their full terms, which came to an end at different points in time. As a consequence, both steps took place at different times across the districts, making it easy to identify the increase in democratic circumstances. The study uses this circumstance to analyse whether democratisation has any impact on the size of administrative spending.Unfortunately, both democratisation steps did little to reduce the misallocation of resources.

Local party composition influences the extent of administrative overspending. In the sample of districts that did not split, for which the study has consistent data on local parliaments’ compositions, it finds that in districts with high political concentration or a dominant party, administrative overspending was even larger. In other words, political competition reduces the degree of waste.
These findings show that district governments are still not sufficiently accountable to the local constituency. Greater accountability would rein in excessive spending on themselves for the benefit of the people they are obliged to serve.

As such, decentralisation and democratisation at the local level are alone not sufficient for eliminating wasteful administration expenditure. Reform that improves political competition, including by increasing the transparency of the political process and making it easy for outsiders to run for office, is likely to be essential. Sensible next steps should include abolishing all barriers to entry for candidates to run for office of district head. This may lead to higher competitiveness of the political process, more freedom to choose, and thus better outcomes.

Dr. Günther G. Schulze is Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics, University of Freiburg, Germany.

Bambang Suharnoko Sjahrir is is a PhD student in the same department and works for the World Bank in Indonesia. 

This article originally appeared 18 April 2014 on the East Asia Forum.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

They were just out for a surf when Australian immigration officials appeared and started handing out copies of Form 80

Photo by Phil Deschamp

Posts this week: Notorious Form 80, do we really look like a food bowl? and results of the legislative elections

Please enjoy this week's new posts:

"Form 80: Stopping refugees in their tracks," by Lauren Gumbs, April 2014.
This immigration security clearance is an exclusionary tool responsible for the impasse where refugees are denied entry to Australia, but cannot go home.

"Trade deal opens huge opportunity - and challenges - in agriculture," by Ross B. Taylor, April 2014.
We might not be the food bowl of Asia, but we can certainly provide agriculture expertise.

"Indonesia's legislative election: a vote for moderation?" by Dominic Berger, April 2014.
After the competition for seats in the House of Representative, party elites are busy cementing coalitions.

And if you are interested:

Bets are still on for Jokowi to take office in October.

Hats off to Indonesia for coming as far as it has in such a short time.

Islamic parties did ok in the legislative elections, but still falling short of nationalist parties.

Form 80: Stopping refugees in their tracks

By Lauren Gumbs

As far as hoops go, there is nothing quite like Form 80.

This 18 page document, ‘Personal particulars for assessment including character assessment’, is used to satisfy immigration requirements in cases where applicants are determined to be a potential security risk. Such risks are evaluated on things like age, ethnicity and nationality, countries of current and previous residence and purpose of stay in Australia. The form is used for applicants of permanent residency visas as well as temporary work visas like the 457 visa.

Those applying for protection visas though, are more likely to be required to fill out this form than those from say the UK, applying for skilled migration. Form 80 asks for total disclosure of one’s identity and history in 55 teeth grinding questions that push the limits of an applicant’s known record of their personal history. Among the questions asked are:

Have you ever had a different date of birth to the one shown at Question 1?
Do you have any email addresses? Provide all of your email addresses
Your address history for the last 30 years
• addresses inside and outside Australia
• places you resided for study/work
• refugee camps
• any other place you have resided such as share houses, university residences and temporary accommodation.
Have you travelled to any country other than Australia in the last 30 years? List all.
Give details of all education and qualifications since birth.
Police certificates for all countries lived in for the past ten years since you were 16 years of age.

Providing this information is not only a challenge for an Australian with a good memory and excellent filing system, it is a Herculean task for a refugee family after fleeing state persecution with all they have left on their backs. Form 80 is a gatekeeper. It asks people to recall the past 30 years of their lives and when they can’t it works to effectively obstruct entry into Australia or in the case of refugees, perverts the application process to such an extent that mandatory detention becomes a sentence for those who fail to accurately recall the address of a relative’s home they stayed in ten years ago.

A form that asks one to “Give details of all employment and unemployment since birth” is a form designed to prohibit access through a carefully applied bureaucracy. When used in conjunction with the enhanced powers of the Minister for Immigration and his Departmental officers under Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4020, as well as other tough refugee policies such as intake and protection visa caps and mandatory detention, Form 80 is a particularly effective firewall against unwanted migration. And now refugees can no longer appeal migration decisions in court or access free legal representation. Once a visa application is denied it is almost impossible to apply again with a different story or information.

Form 80 is the last line in bureaucratic defence of territorial sovereignty and it is an exquisitely elaborate process to legitimise the identity of an outsider, most notably those outsiders who lack the stability an identity confirmed through paper trails. Scott Morrison and the Department of Immigration enlist these evasive legislative and regulatory tools to sustain a tough stance on refugees, not least the impenetrable principle of the Doublespeak that characterises protection visas.

Siobhan Keating, a Human Rights lawyer, despairs of the catch 22 situation where, “to be eligible for a protection visa under Morrison's new laws, you must apply for a visa in Australia having arrived after fleeing your homeland for fear of persecution. But if you arrive in Australia without a visa because you fled your homeland for fear of persecution, you're not eligible for a protection visa.”
She says to put it another way, “the only people who are eligible for a protection visa are those people to whom we have already granted a visa.”

Form 80 is required by applicants of visas who are already in Australia at the time they apply and it only requested from external applicants who are flagged. For refugees in Australia who meet the criteria of refugee but fail to satisfy Form 80’s security assessment, they become stuck between a rock and a hard place; they cannot go home but they cannot stay. Under the Refugee Convention however, refugees can only be excluded from protection if they have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes or a present a danger to the security of the country. Not if they cannot name their brother or sister’s address or don’t know their parent’s date of birth.

But then again, an applicant will never know the reason for an adverse security assessment as this is determined by ‘outside agencies’ aka ASIO, and unable to be challenged or corrected.
Form 80 demonstrates a radical Australian interpretation of sovereignty that prevails over international Human Rights obligations. Ten years ago the form was just two pages. Today fear of asylum seekers has swollen and so have the impenetrable documents that are used to substantiate prolonged and hopeless stays in mandatory detention.

Lauren is a Human Rights student who holds a Master in Communications. She is the blog editor at the Indonesia Institute.