APSN Banner

Analysis: Indonesia today more corrupt than when Jokowi took charge

Jakarta Post - February 20, 2023

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – When President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo exits the political stage in October 2024, Indonesia will likely be a more corrupt nation than when he moved into the presidential palace a decade earlier, unless he can turn things around. This is hardly a legacy that Jokowi wants to be remembered by.

In the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) published this month, Indonesia saw not only the biggest drop in its score to 38 in 2022 from 34 a year earlier, but also in the global ranking from 96th to 110th of 180 countries surveyed. In 2014, the year Jokowi took the helm, Indonesia scored 34 and ranked 107 out of 175 countries surveyed.

The index, published annually by Transparency International, gathers the perception from a sample of the public in each country. It assigns countries scores from 0 for very corrupt, to 100 for very clean.

Indonesia's Corruption Perception Index (CPI)

YearScore (out of 100)Global ranking/countries surveyed

Source – Transparency International

The drop indicates that in the last eight years, Jokowi has undone many of the achievements painfully fought for in the country's anticorruption drive of the last two decades, including those that occurred under his watch. Based on the CPI, Indonesia had the best performance in 2019, the year Jokowi was reelected for a second term, when it scored 40 and ranked 85th out of 180 countries surveyed.

Unless Jokowi makes a bold move in the coming months, the downward trend will continue in the next few years. While his administration is not seen as corrupt, his policies have facilitated the return of Indonesia's corrupt ways of the past, or he has turned a blind eye to corruption by people in his inner circle.

Indonesia has come a long way since the days of Soeharto's dictatorship. In 1998, the year he left the stage, Indonesia was the most corrupt nation on earth, according to Transparency International, which then surveyed 80 countries. In 1999, the year after his departure, Indonesia still ranked 96th out of 99 countries surveyed. So cynical was the public that a joke making the rounds at the time asked how much money Indonesia paid Transparency International to get it off the top rank.

Post-Soeharto, the anticorruption drive became a central theme to the reform movement in ushering in democracy in the country. Candidates running for office were judged based on their commitments to weed out massive corruption.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) won the presidential elections in 2004 and 2009 campaigning on the promise of a clean government. Jokowi also championed the antigraft drive when he won the election in 2014. This perception has changed in his second term, as confirmed by the latest CPI report.

One of the most drastic steps Jokowi has taken is by dismantling the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Set up in the early years of the reform movement in 2004 to go after big-time corruption committed by people in high positions, the KPK's victims have included top judges, powerful politicians, cabinet ministers and police generals. The KPK has many enemies in powerful places and only a few friends, among them the public and the media. Politicians have been eager to dismantle the KPK's power.

What's more

President SBY used his power to foil many attempts by the House of Representatives to dissolve the KPK, even when some of his Cabinet ministers fell prey to the commission. He could not save then-deputy governor of Bank Indonesia Aulia Pohan, who is the father-in-law of his son, from going to jail because off the the KPK.

Jokowi has allowed the House to push ahead with amending the KPK Law. The first attempt was foiled by a massive and violent street student protest in 2019, but the bill was presented again to the House the following year and became law, which defanged the commission. The House has also used its power to determine who gets to sit on the commission and pick those considered friendly and unthreatening. The current KPK chair Firli Bahuri hailed from the National Police, shielding the institution from corruption investigations.

The KPK under Jokowi has become a toothless tiger, a big come down from the days when it was widely feared and respected and enjoyed massive public support.

Despite the negative publicity about his failing in eradicating corruption following the CPI report, the President responded calmly, summoning some of his top Cabinet ministers last week to work out ways to correct this perception. He said he remained committed to eradicating corruption.

One indication why he is tolerating a level of corruption came from a statement by Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who criticized the sting operations the KPK had conducted to nab corruption in the act. Luhut said these operations were a source of embarrassment for the country, although they have become few and far between.

This looks like a page from the Soeharto book that tolerated some corruption with the popular theory that it greases the economic wheels in a developing country. This theory has since been proven to be fatal. Corruption became so rampant and out of control that it bankrupted the country in 1998, unraveling all the developments carried out during his time and impoverishing the nation once again. The oil windfall of the 1970s and 1980s went mostly into the pockets of his cronies.

Indonesia today is a far cry from the corrupt nation that it was some 20 years ago, but we are moving back in that direction. As President Jokowi prepares to leave the stage, leaving a nation that is more corrupt than before he came to power would be a tragic legacy that will eclipse many of his other achievements.

What we've heard

President Joko Widodo summoned Coordinating Politics, Law and Security Minister Mahfud MD, National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo, and Attorney General Sanitiar Burhanuddin and KPK chairman Firli Bahuri to the State Palace on Feb. 7 to discuss Transparency International's release of their Corruption Perception Index where Indonesia only scored 34.

In a public statement, President Jokowi believed the CPI will not affect the investment climate, because investors will think about profit or loss. However, a source from the government said that the President is worried about the declining trend of the CPI. The source added the President was afraid it would affect the integrity of the government. "That's why the president summoned the heads of law enforcement agencies to evaluate how this happened," the source revealed.

Apart from discussing strategies to improve the CPI, the source said that another topic discussed at the meeting was Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan's open challenge to KPK's sting operations. During the meeting Jokowi also ordered the KPK, the Attorney General's Office (AGO), and the National Police to strengthen law enforcement against corruption.

A law enforcement officer said after the meeting, KPK and AGO agreed to jointly monitor and oversee the handling of corruption cases. "The government wants to simplify the coordination between law enforcement agencies in the fight against graft," said the source.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/02/20/analysis-indonesia-today-more-corrupt-then-when-jokowi-took-charge.htm