Carlos Ky Paath, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has asked regional governments to stop issuing too many local regulations and told his ministries to cull at least ten regulations before issuing a new one to cut bureaucratic red tapes and improve the country's competitiveness.
The president has already made regulatory reform one of his main priorities in his second term. Jokowi was even willing to build a wide coalition in the cabinet to ensure support in the House of Representatives.
Now the president is pressuring the regional heads to follow his directive. Due to Indonesia's regional autonomy laws, regional leaders are immensely powerful and their actions do not always fall into line with central government policies.
"We already have too many regulations. We need to entangle them. If every little thing needs a specific regulation, we'd always be slow to take action or adapt to changes," Jokowi told hundreds of regional heads in a national coordination meeting on Wednesday.
Jokowi promised a seven percent growth when he became president in 2014 but the Indonesian economy has only been able to expand by around 5 percent annually since then.
Red tapes remain one of the main challenges in boosting investment, which is why the president is convinced simplifying them is the key for the pace of growth he wants.
The president told his ministers to lead by example and push for regulatory reforms in their own ministries.
"If a minister wants to issue one new regulation, he or she must remove ten regulations first, not just two. Having too many regulations makes things very confusing," Jokowi said.
He said he took his inspiration from a meeting with the United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross who said the US was now trading one new regulation with two old ones to simplify bureaucracy.
Jokowi said flexibility and speed in the bureaucracy are very important for Indonesia. All countries are heading in that direction. "Whoever is faster, wins. Everyone take note. We must understand and fix our own problems," Jokowi said.
Police under scrutiny
The president also promised he would dismiss law enforcement officials who inhibit innovations.
In April, police arrested a farmer who sold a variety of rice seeds he cultivated from a subsidized seed provided by Jokowi's campaign team. The farmer's fault was that he did not secure the proper paperwork before selling the seeds.
While not specifically referring to the case, the president said he did not want to see a similar incident in the future. "Never come between innovation and progress in this country," he said.
"I will not tolerate law enforcement officials who try to inhibit innovation or frighten and blackmail bureaucrats, officials and business people. I will find out," Jokowi said.
If there was no malicious intent, do not go about and looking for one, the president said.
"If there are potential legal issues, remind them before they go on with their project, use a preventive approach. Do not wait for them [to violate the law], and then give them troubles," Jokowi said.
Abdullah Azwar Anas, the chairman of the Association of Regional Governments (Apkasi), welcomed the president's direction.
"The president has told us what his priorities are. All the regional heads will follow them," Azwar said on the sidelines of the meeting in Bogor, West Java, on Wednesday.
"Maybe a meeting like this with the president should be held every three months," Azwar said.
"With a forum like this, ministers won't have to meet us individually anymore, since everyone is clear on what general direction the government is heading to. Organizing meetings with each ministry is a big hassle for us," he said.