2021 Annual Report

The Illusion of Governance Reform
Annual Report 2021

Indonesia’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) rebounded in 2021 after a drop in 2020. With a score of 38 (from 37 in 2020) and rank of 96 globally (from 102 in 2020), corruption eradication efforts in Indonesia appeared to improve. But what does this really mean? According to Transparency International (TI) Indonesia, Indonesia’s CPI score in 2021 was primarily driven by the country’s economic sector. Corruption and graft in license issuance, investment, and business sectors were perceived to have stronger response due to the government’s various interventions, such as deregulations and the passing of the Job Creation Law.

However, such responses could not be found in other areas that are highly strategic for Indonesia’s bolder anti-corruption agenda: the stagnancy of rule of law reform, and the deteriorating quality of democracy in the country. The combination of a weaker democracy and rule of law dysfunction has birthed an all-powerful and more authoritarian government. On top of that, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), a statutory body that had been a very effective oversight body in the past, has been deprived of its independence, resulting in the failing mechanism of checks and balances of power. A higher prevalence of corruption in politics would only be a logical consequence led by these causes.

Is the trade-off between economic growth and the paralyzed integrity of our political and justice sectors worth it for Indonesia? This is an important question that we should be asking. The answer, certainly, would be that the cost of that trade-off is too high.

A policy that cuts the red tape in license issuance – which we know has been a magnet for bribery – may be alleviating the risk of corruption. But if the same policy strips the system to its core, including indiscriminately removing important safeguards that protect our environment and people, then we are only closing a small loophole for corruption while giving way to a bigger one. In many economic sectors, laxed policies write off important procedures that were in place to ensure the transparency and accountability of any business that benefited from public resources. Intentionally or otherwise, these policies only facilitate oligarchs to thrive.

The government’s pragmatics tendency, which demands for anything and everything to be accelerated, has led to new and even more complex issues. Issues such as regressing democracy, violation of human rights, environmental exploitation, policing practices in many events, law-making processes that break procedures and without any public participation are time-bombs in the context of corruption eradication. And the clock is ticking.

In order to provide safety and certainty to investors, businesses and their cronies, our values and ethics are compromised, conflict of interests among public officials increase, the government is becoming even more closed off to the public's access to information, and physical and digital threats continue to take place. All of these demonstrate one thing: that our improved governance, indicated by Indonesia’s CPI score in 2021, was merely an illusion.

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