Vice President Jusuf Kalla said during the opening of the International Public Service Forum in Jakarta on Wednesday that the root of corruption is in the attitude of bureaucrats, who often create unnecessary administrative hurdles. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform)

What Progress Has Indonesia Made in Reforming Its Bureaucracy?

NOVEMBER 07, 2018

Jakarta. Fewer bureaucratic hurdles, more robust legal institutions and clear laws and regulations are what matter most to businesses, corporations and ordinary citizens.

Even a person of Vice President Jusuf Kalla's caliber admits that the root of corruption is in the attitude of bureaucrats who, in a country like Indonesia, often create unnecessary administrative hurdles.

"Why does the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] have to deal with so many cases? Because there is a gap between the attitudes of bureaucrats and entrepreneurs," Kalla, who is also a prominent businessman, said during the opening of the International Public Service Forum in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The vice president is the patriarch of the Kalla Group and Bukaka Group, whose business portfolios span energy, engineering, trading, construction, telecommunications, transportation, infrastructure and energy. He also had extensive involvement in the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) – an influential business lobby.

Oiling the Gears

"Entrepreneurs want to see results and thus want things done quickly, but bureaucrats usually place emphasis on procedures, which causes things to get done slowly. Then there are negotiations to speed up the process, and that is where the problem starts," he said.

The former Golkar Party chairman said bureaucratic reform is very important to remove the need for members of the business community to "buy speed" when dealing with bureaucrats. Innovations to simplify some of these complicated bureaucratic processes were therefore necessary.

Indonesia, as a developing nation under Suharto's authoritarian regime for more than 30 years, became known for its notoriously complicated bureaucracy. Many companies tend to hire third parties, consultants and lawyers to get things done, including registering business entities and processing permits.

Senior officials of regulatory bodies and government departments were eager to present their innovations aimed at streamlining their services during the two-day International Public Service Forum.

The event themed "Expanding and Improving Service Delivery Through Collaborative Actions," was initiated by the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform, and intended to serve as an interactive platform to showcase improvements and innovations in the country's bureaucracy.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Transmigration Minister Eko Putro Sandjojo, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi and Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir also spoke during the event, attended by provincial governors, mayors and district heads from across the country.

What the Minister Says

Bureaucratic Reform Minister Syafruddin said the government has established nine one-stop-service malls in various cities, including Surabaya, East Java; Denpasar, Bali; Bekasi, West Java; and Batam, Riau Islands.

According to the minister, there had been progress in bureaucratic reform by ministries, government institutions, provincial governments and district governments, all of which should help to improve Indonesia's image.

Syafruddin cited a bureaucratic reform index compiled by his ministry to monitor improvements in the way government institutions provide public services, which he said had improved to 71.9 points last year from 65.78 previously. This index takes into account various aspects, including innovations and transparency within institutions.

Bureaucratic Reform Minister Syafruddin speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the International Public Service Forum at the Jakarta Convention Center on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform)

An index  measuring bureaucratic reform in all provincial governments also improved to 70.47 from 41.61 points, while an index measuring district and city governments improved to 60.47 from 41.61.

The bureaucratic reform ministry also handed out 40 awards to the winners of public service innovation competitions, among them, the Jakarta provincial government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Jayapura Police Station.

The bureaucratic reform ministry said in a report that it has phased out 23 nonstructural government agencies and institutions that had overlapping responsibilities. It had also re-organized 24 ministries and government departments to increase efficiency.

The ministry further claims to have pushed ministries, government agencies and departments to digitalize various processes, including the submission of applications by the public and the processing of data and permits. In a bid to encourage greater feedback and facilitate whistleblowing, the ministry spearheaded an online complaint system known as Lapor!, which involves the National Ombudsman and the Presidential Staff Office – a nonstructural government agency directly reporting to the president – to hear what the public thinks about the services offered by various state institutions.

There are 834 government institutions connected to this system, which had already received 1.33 million complaints from the public as of the end of September this year.

But despite these measures, Indonesia still slipped one place to 73rd, behind Greece, the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, in the World Bank's 2019 Ease of Doing Business report. This is an unfortunate setback to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's ambition for Indonesia to be in the top 40 by next year.

However, an index by the World Economic Forum measuring competitiveness levels in 140 countries showed a better result, with Indonesia having improved its position to 36th place in the 2017-2018 report, up from 41st previously.

However, the country was ranked 96th in Berlin-based nonprofit Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. This is worse than other countries in the region, such as Sri Lanka (91), Timor Leste (91) and India (81).