BATAK CULTURE &ISLAM JAVANESE Corruption was so much a part of Indonesian society, it was”simply unrealistic to expect comprehensive reforms”
Corrupt regime still haunts Jakarta
By Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta
Five years after the fall of Soeharto, Indonesia remains one of the world’s most corrupt countries because the ghosts of the old regime have adapted to the new environment and are continuing to flourish.
A report published by the World Bank yesterday says that despite numerous new anti-corruption institutions and laws, the network of Soeharto cronies and members of his family have managed to shape the changed environment to their advantage.
“Today Soeharto has gone but those who ran the franchises largely remain,” the report says. “Their influence continues to lurk behind new laws and policies tipped in favour of the elite or in the quiet reclamation of their old assets at knock-down prices . . .”
Corruption was so much a part of Indonesian society, it was “simply unrealistic to expect comprehensive reforms” in the short or even medium term, said Mr Sawar Lateef, who headed up the group that produced the report.
The report does not criticise the government of Megawati Soekarnoputri for tolerating corruption, saying it is normal for evolving democracies to spend their early years bringing the economy under control and providing stable government.
The experience elsewhere was that it “takes one or two elections” before there was a real effort to reduce corruption, Mr Lateef said.
With the opening up of Indonesian society since the fall of Soeharto and the rapid growth of a free media, corruption has been exposed almost daily and yet it continues to flourish, the report says. “You have a problem of a very high level of transparency without accountability,” Mr Lateef said. If Indonesia was to fall from near the top of the list of the world’s most corrupt nations it was vital that new laws be implemented.
The best hope for breaking down graft was at the grass-roots level rather than in the country’s ruling elite, where there was no appetite for reform. “The vested interests are too powerful and the ability of the state to implement a broad-based program of reforms is limited,” the report says.
Success in tackling corruption is more likely in individual villages where the World Bank now directs much of its funding, it says.