Indonesia´s Corruption Problem: Feathering one´s own nest

One of the norms I have always valued the most is righteousness. In this respect, I can safely assume the guilt of my mother. Righteousness is, by far, the one criteria by which I classify people as being fair and capable. Respectively, this is also true for governments and their officials. My disappointment in Indonesia is stemming from non-compliance with that one principle and here is why:

Corruption Word List

Corruption Word List

To further my blogs on Indonesia and their current struggles, one major issue that reoccurs over and over again is corruption. It has so many implications in hindering the formation of a well functioning democratic nation. Unfortunately so, it is decreasing the potential of social, economic and diplomatic development. A government holds responsibility over its nation. Indonesia has a 250,585,668 citizens, 250,585,668 lives of which almost half lives under the poverty line of $ 2 dollars a day. I feel greatly frustrated thinking that a small group of officials have taken on shared duty for its population but the executed actions are predominantly focusing on feathering their own nest. It eliminates the legitimacy to govern. And the scale is immense. Only in the first six month of 2012, already $ 1.3 billion dollar has been falling under irregularities in the financial sector. A total of 13,105 cases have been found by the State Auditing Agency of Indonesia, a scary number indeed. The current rank of Indonesia in the Corruption Perception Index is place 118 world wide1.

Governmental institutions such as the KPK, the Corruption Eradication Committee and NGO´s equally so have been established to investigate and publish corruption crimes. They bring forth many allegations and are fairly effective in doing so. The above mentioned 13,105 cases of corruption were uncovered by the KPK and brought before court.

Corruption is so endemic within the justice system that the system is often referred to as the ‘justice mafia’. In most types of cases, including corruption cases, police can be ‘persuaded’ to drop an investigation, lose important evidence, or charge a suspect with a lesser offence. In return for a bribe, prosecutors often drop a prosecution, present their case poorly at trial, or seek a lenient penalty … the result is, in essence, immunity for those whose cases are handled by ordinary law-enforcement institutions and who are willing and able to bribe their way out of trouble.

Simon Butt, Anti-Corruption Reform in Indonesia

This quote outlines a very ironic problem that dominants the legal system of Indonesia. It was reasoned that finding the guilty corrupted officials would disincentive politicians to be corrupt at all. But corruption is exactly what is preventing the persecuted persons from being held accountable. By means of bribes, sentences are mitigated and purposely bad presented in court. If at all sentenced to imprisonment guards are favoring rich inmates and releasing them early due to “good behavior”.

There are four main aspects found by Martini2 that cause corruption in Indonesia: The history that has lead to the current situation, the decentralization of power to local officials, the qualitative lack of administrative regulations and the weak non-independent judiciary.

Corruption as part of Culture

Corruption as part of Culture

Firstly, under the regime of Suharto it was common that friends and family of the elite enjoyed benefits that were not accessible to the low and mid income class. His authoritarian governance erected institutional patronage which was a solid basis for effective corruption. Monopolies, exclusive supply contracts and even tax breaks were the result of the Suharto period. Until today, the old elite is still somewhat present in the decision making systems and therefore they protect their beneficial positions by slowing down reforms and development.

Secondly, decentralization was one aspect deemed to mitigate corruption by spreading responsibility towards local, smaller governance instances. The problem at hand, however, is the accountability of the mentioned instances. The simple decentralization of governance is not effective if the smaller newly empowered persons are not being held accountable for their actions. In fact, it only seduces the lower officials to commit fraud and corruption themselves. And this is exactly what happened. The weak control system of the empowered local officials has enabled them to be corrupt without subsequent consequences.

Thirdly, for companies, the administrative regulations currently in place simplify the means to bribe and take fraudulent actions in the business´s favor. If no legal basis is created that prevents corruption, people will exploit upon it. Big companies can bribe the local governments that hold more power after being decentralized.

Fourthly, to come back to the above mentioned quote, the Judiciary system is not independent enough and does not hold any qualitative power. If people are found to have committed an act of corruption, the legal system should sanction the perpetrators accordingly. Otherwise, all measurements taken will not be effective or even redundant.

If Indonesia is continuing their corrupted path into the future, money that could have been spent on developing Indonesia, socially and economically is being misused, driven by the selfishness of the politicians. It is not justifiable that the hard earned money of the populace in form of tax is allocated into the pockets of officials that have no intention in spending it on their citizens in return. Something has to be done, and certain things are already falling into place. There are instances that understand that the future of Indonesia is strongly dependent on the rightful investments into the country. Measurements are being taken which will be shortly presented in the following.

Consistency in law enforcement is important for the public trust in law. It is currently not given because some corruption cases are still not completed. If those are not pursued, the judiciary branch loses their credibility and legal matters will be resolved without the involvement of the legal system. This is frustrating for the public and will be furthered if parties are exploiting upon the non existence of law enforcement. Indonesia has ratified the UNCAC which is somewhat proof of the willingness of Indonesia to change their corruption problem. The terms set by the UNCAC must be followed throughout Indonesia and applied by all governmental instances. Also, Indonesia has to be educated towards an anti-corruption attitude not only in the public but also the private sector. Lastly, the mechanisms that monitor and report corruption must be developed. Data flow in ministries and agencies must be transparent. Also the progress of the compliance with UNCAC is included in this system. Newly arranged reports must be submitted to monitoring systems which are facilitated by instances such as the KPK or others3.

Government Offical Closing his Eyes

Government Offical Closing his Eyes

Problematically so, poverty, unemployment and social imbalance are causing corruption, but in retro-perspective, corruption is also causing poverty, unemployment, and social imbalance. A devilish downwards spiraling movement in which cause and effect are equally enhancing the respective other. Therefore, instead of only relying on the government, the civil society has to partake in the development of the country and take action into their own hands.

Currently, Indonesians are well aware of the corruption problem of their officials. It results in a high dissatisfaction and hence, it is very likely to result in a change in governmental parties after the elections are being held. I see this as an opportunity for Indonesia. Strategic steps are important to tackle such a fundamental issues as corruption. What I deem to be even more important is the willingness of the government to change from selfishness to a collaborative body that is not willing to represent its populace in order to exploit upon their money but wants Indonesia to prosper.

Apart from electing a non-corrupt government, Indonesians can undertake even more proactive action. It has to voice their dissatisfaction with the current handling of issues. Publicly, the populace has to rise against crimes of corruption and ensure the rightful prosecution of the corrupted. A successful example was, launching the website which has drawn around two million visitors within the first week of being online4. By increasingly demanding compliance with non-corruptive behavior, the civil society can pressure the national government and draw the attention of the international community. Change has to come from within to be truly successful and needs to be driven by willingness and passion to transform Indonesia.

Taking action against Corruption!


  1. Transparency International. (2014). Corruption By Country. Retrieved from
  2. Martini, M. (2012). U4 Expert Answer: What are main causes of corruption in Indonesia? Transparency International.
  3. Government Indonesia. (2012). National Strategy of Corruption Prevention & Eradication.
  4. France 24. (2013). Web news – Fighting corruption in Indonesia. France 24. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

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