Indonesian govt flips script on declining corruption score

The latest global study illustrates the scale of the regression in the country’s fight against corruption.

Nur Janti

Nur Janti

The Jakarta Post


Anticorruption People’s Movement activists rally at the Digulis traffic circle in Pontianak, West Kalimantan.(Antara/Jessica Helena Wuysang)

February 8, 2023

JAKARTA – The government has flipped the script on its recent poor showing on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), using it as an excuse to rally support for the controversial Job Creation Law as a means of eliminating red tape.

The latest global study conducted by Transparency International illustrates the scale of the regression in the country’s fight against corruption as the government has been focusing too much on its economy-forward approach to development and improving international competitiveness.

But a senior minister said otherwise, claiming that the government’s efforts to streamline business rules through the enactment of the controversial Job Creation Law in late 2020 were intended to centralize the business licensing process in order to break the chain of corruption.

“The problems lay in the licensing bureaucracy and collusion in the process. That is why the government proposed [the drafting of the Job Creation Law] using an omnibus method,” Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD told reporters on Friday

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently issued a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) on job creation to resuscitate the jobs law, which was declared last year by the Constitutional Court as unconstitutional because it used the unrecognized omnibus method. Critics accused the government of bypassing proper debate in the legislature.

The jobs law revised dozens of laws all at once to streamline business rules in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, which is notorious for its onerous bureaucracy.

Mahfud went on to say that in the past three years, law enforcement agencies had done excellent work in probing corruption cases, citing the investigations into Jiwasraya, Asabri and the defense communications satellite procurement cases by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) as examples.

His statement came in response to the recent CPI, which revealed that Indonesia’s score has slipped down four points to 34, marking the country’s performance as one of the worst year-on-year (yoy) in the region. The nation now ranks 110th of the 180 countries surveyed in the study, behind neighbors Singapore, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and Thailand.

The decline in the CPI score confirms that the government’s strategy to curb corruption by improving the ease of doing business while at the same time, policymakers sought to declaw the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) by revising its law has failed, Transparency International Indonesia said.

The CPI flagged the “political risk service index”, one of eight sources used to compile the CPI, as the key contributor to the drop in the overall score, indicating that graft, bribery, illicit kickbacks and conflicts of interest among decisionmakers were increasingly prevalent.

Alvin Nicola of Transparency International Indonesia said on Sunday that the government should focus more on improving substantive democracy and the system of checks and balances and eradicating corruption in the political sphere.

Zaenur Rohman of the Gadjah Mada University’s Center for Anticorruption Studies (Pukat UGM) was of the same opinion that the undemocratic lawmaking process of the jobs law was one of the problems that led to the lowering of the CPI score.

“The senior minister’s statement is wrong and baseless,” he said on Sunday.

Zaenur suggested that the country should reform law enforcement institutions and strengthen their internal and external oversight, and enact new policies that would help the government combat bribery and money laundering.

He was referring to the asset forfeiture bill that would allow authorities to confiscate ill-gotten assets before criminal conviction and a bill that would limit cash transactions.

Policymakers have kept the bills on the back burner for years since they were first proposed by the administration of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In December 2022, the bill on asset forfeiture was included on this year’s list of priority bills. But House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, has yet to start its deliberation.

Taufik Basari of the NasDem Party said that lawmakers were waiting for the government to submit the draft of the bill complete with their arguments.

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