And so it grows ... continued
A second issue of concern to local bloggers, or to Indcoup
, Yosef Ardi
, and myself
is how it could appear that at least two of SBY's cohorts, Aburizal Bakrie and VP Jusuf Kalla, are allowing their families to benefit from their positions.
Both were heads of prominent and successful business families before entering the government. Neither has been (too) tainted with stories of the misuse of bank loans following the onset of krismon nearly ten years ago although there have been debt scandals.
What disturbed the three of us has been the apparent misuse of their positions recently to ensure that their family conglomerates have perhaps more than their fair share of government contracts.
For example, Kalla has been in China this week heading up a delegation witnessing the signing of a cooperation agreement between Bosowa Group (owned by brother-in-law Aksa Mahmud) and a China company to develop the
Another of the fourteen companies involved in the project is PT Bukaka Trans System, a Kalla family enterprise.
After two months of occasional posts on this topic ~ use the search facilities to track our stories ~ it is pleasing to note that the mainstream media is catching on.Tempo Interactive
has a cover story about a crash programme to build coal-fired power plants to meet the demand for extra power, a programme initiated last month in lieu of a rise in the price of electricity.
The editorial in yesterday's Jakarta Post, headed The politics of power
, says the following:Were it not for the corruption-infested public procurement system and the potential conflicts of interest of several members of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Cabinet, the proposed crash program to build several coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 10,000 megawatts within the next three years would not have set off such a heated controversy.
However, the government's plan to "expedite" the tendering of the projects and the crash program was allegedly derived from a proposal by Vice President Jusuf Kalla's younger brother Achmad Kalla, the chairman of the Bukaka engineering company.
... there are only a small number of local contractors qualified to build major power plants. What makes the public more apprehensive is the fact that the families of senior politicians and some Cabinet members, including Jusuf Kalla and Aburizal Bakrie, the coordinating minister for the people's welfare, control the largest of the big contractors.
(Yosef has a major post
on Bakrie's recent heavy investment in the coal mining business.)
The Post's conclusion is that as long as these potential conflicts of interest among Cabinet members are not dealt with under a credible system of checks and balances and the government procurement system remains notoriously corrupt, the tendering of major projects will unnecessarily cause controversy. And national contractors, many of which have connections to senior officials, will always be under suspicion of collusion and the abuse of inside information.
The government therefore should execute the long-delayed plan to set up an independent national public procurement office to reform the procurement system.
One cannot argue against that but I would suggest that a reform of the electoral system is a pre-requisite. As yet, legislators are not directly elected by constituents and do not represent any group or community other than the political party that put them in the national or regional legislature.
Electors vote for parties and seats are apportioned according to percentages of total votes cast. Each party has a slate of candidates and one's position on the slate depends on one's contribution to the party coffers. So the higher up the slate one is, the closer one's nose gets to the trough, and this is important. How else can one recoup costs?
Thus the news in the Republika
daily that House members are given an honorarium for doing "routine work" comes as no surprise. Routine work generally means clocking in for, but not necessarily attending, a House committee.
Being given a bonus on top of a monthly salary of Rp.50 million (c.$5,500) per month is justified according to the Minister of Home Affairs as things had been officially allocated
. He was backed by the chairman of the special committee on the Aceh bill (who) said that the money was legal and had nothing to do with fraud, manipulation and the like
So if I tell you that I have budgetted Rp.1 million for a kilogramme of marijuana, is that okay because the money is legal and has nothing to do with fraud, manipulation and the like?
If legislators are elected directly then their positions become dependent on performance. Fail to perform according to the electorate's wishes and someone else will get voted in.
In many respects, the current system protects independently wealthy businessmen like Bakrie and Kalla because they are in a position to grant and ask for favours - on their terms. It's their Golkar party which keeps SBY in power, thus giving Indonesia a much-needed period of stable governance.
This comes at a price, but a few choice contracts, which through investment in the country's infrastructure should ultimately benefit the country, may be cheap in the long run.
But guess who I wouldn't vote for even if I could ...