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End may be near for lazy bureaucrats

Jakarta Globe - July 4, 2013

Ridho Syukra – Bureaucracy reform legislation that threatens underperforming civil servants with dismissal is likely to become law this month, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

The civil service bill was approved last month by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and is currently under deliberation by lawmakers.

Deputy Minister for Administrative Reform Eko Prasojo told a bureaucracy reform seminar in Jakarta on Wednesday that the bill would force state apparatuses to perform, and that civil servants who failed to perform for three years would face dismissal.

"All this time, no civil servants have ever been dismissed until they reached retirement age after they had been appointed, despite poor performance," he said. "The draft was finalized in early June. President SBY also immediately approved it. I hope it can be passed into law this July."

The government has committed to improving the quality of bureaucracy by 2025, part of its goal of maintaining economic growth at above 6 percent per year.

Eko said that should Indonesia fail to improve the quality of its bureaucracy, investment would dwindle and public trust would deteriorate. Bureaucracy is key to public faith in government, he said, given most people's interaction with the state is through bureaucratic channels.

The deputy minister said the government had identified three paths to improve the bureaucracy. First, it will require all provinces to work with local city administrations. Secondly, it will seek higher quality staff to match the skills of private-sector counterparts. And thirdly, it will use technology to improve bureaucratic services.

Eko said he was confident annual growth in the national economy could remain above 6 percent if the government implemented the three strategies. He said that compared to Asian economic powerhouses like India and Japan, Indonesia's bureaucracy is lagging far behind.

But Eko said Indonesia's economic growth could outstrip that of Japan and India by 2025, once the plans for bureaucracy come to fruition.

A poor-quality bureaucracy is often identified as a hurdle to foreign investment in Indonesia. More than a decade of decentralization has shifted many responsibilities to underskilled local governments.

In 2011 the government introduced a since-expired moratorium on hiring additional civil servants, but made exceptions for several agencies.