APSN Banner

Minister Bahlil's grease money

Tempo - March 8, 2024

Laila Afifa, Jakarta – Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia has revoked mining permits and then reissued them. There are indications of illegal buying and selling of permits.

It is becoming increasingly apparent by the day that there is another motive behind President Joko Widodo's ambition to stimulate investment by selling off mining permits: to provide an opportunity for corruption through 'acting officials.' One of these 'acting' officials is the Investment Minister and the Investment Coordinating Board Head, Bahlil Lahadalia. As well as being a minister, since 2021, Bahlil has been appointed as the head of the Investment Acceleration Task Force.

As an ad hoc body, the main job of the Investment Task Force is to remove obstacles to investment in the center and the regions. However, in reality, Bahlil has the power to evaluate mining permits and business permits, something that is actually the authority of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Bahlil has a powerful tool to do this. Jokowi provided him with Presidential Regulation No. 70/2023 on the Allocation of Land for Investment Regulation. This regulation indeed gives Minister Bahlil the power to revoke the permits of mines that are not productive.

Armed with this regulation, Bahlil has been collecting data on permits of mines that were not operating from 2021 to 2023. His authority is made even stronger because he is also head of the Land and Investment Regulation Task Force. As of the end of last year, he had revoked 2,078 mining and mineral permits. He ignored protests from businesses claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic was the reason they had not made use of their mining permits.

Heroic? Certainly not.

An investigation by this magazine discovered that Bahlil has not been consistent in the cancellation or revocation of mining permits. For example, he did not cancel the nickel mining permit held by Meta Mineral Pradana in Konawe Regency, Southeast Sulawesi, despite the fact that the mine has not operated since 2010. At the same time, he revoked dozens of permits for concession areas near to the Meta Mineral concession. It subsequently came to light that the majority shareholder of Meta Mineral Pradana is Papua Bersama Unggul, a company owned by Bahlil himself.

After revoking thousands of mining permits based on the presidential regulation, Bahlil also has the power to reissue them. There were strong indications of something amiss. A Tempo investigation discovered there were requests for money and shares for every nickel mining permit that was restored.

Moreover, Bahlil put expired permits no longer being used by the previous owners, out to open tender. However, some of these permits were simply handed out to mass organizations, religious groups or associations of retired military personnel. In the case of the last two types of organization, Bahlil is alleged to have provided these permits as 'gifts.'

There are problems with the presidential regulation that is the basis for Minister Bahlil's decisions. The regulation only considered Article 4 Subsection 1 of the 1945 Constitution, which reads: the president holds the power of government in line with the Constitution. This sole consideration ignores Law No. 20/2020 on Mineral and Coal Mining, which contains detailed provisions about the granting and revoking of mining permits.

Jokowi cannot use the excuse that the regulation Bahlil is using to revoke and then reissue mining permits is simply to accelerate investment. He must not continue with the mistaken strategy he has followed to date: justifying any means to achieve his aims.

This is especially true if we link it to the relationship between Jokowi and Bahlil, a patron-client relationship not only related to governance but also to politics and power. Remember that Bahlil is the minister who called for a third term for Jokowi or an extension to his presidential term, and who was the driving force behind the victory of Prabowo Subianto and Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Jokowi's oldest son, in the presidential election.

Corruption through the appointment of officials and the issuing of supporting regulations are typical practices in state capture corruption, a term popular in the mid-1970s. Unlike ordinary bribery, this type of corruption is 'legalized' through regulations. This systemic crime is even worse because it has been carried out at the same time as the plan to extend Jokowi's hold on power. And the people behind it are the same. In the Jokowi era, corruption can be disguised as investment.

– Read the complete story in Tempo English Magazine

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1842370/minister-bahlils-grease-mone