The ideals of this country must be upheld and maintained by reforming order. Even though we are facing various blows, we must have faith that "a less corrupt order is not impossible.
As far as a society has the idea and aspiration to set up an order, corruption will always be a concern. (B. Herry-Priyono, Corruption, 2018: 527)
The Indonesia fell four points in the 2022 Corruption Perception Index, the worst in history.
From a score of 38 at 96th, it fell to 34 points and 110th out of 180 countries (Transparency International, 1/2/2023). This means the country has only been able to increase its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score by two points from 32 in the past decade since 2012. The current score is the same as when Jokowi was elected president in 2014.
Many people were shocked. The President himself said with a heightened tone, this would be subject to correction and evaluation. In fact, this could have been predicted, even prevented, or at least anticipated a long time ago. However, this didn't happen. Why? Perhaps because we are used to condoning corruption.
Extent of corruption
The CPI reflects perceptions among businesspeople and experts on good governance and the level of corruption in the public sector. Indonesia's worst decline is in the “political risk” indicator (from 48 to 35 points) on the amount of corruption in the political system.
The decline in the "economic and political risk" indicator (32 to 29) shows the massive conflict of interest between politicians in the executive and legislative and businessmen. This resulted in a fall in competitiveness (22 to 39).
This is not surprising. First, corruption in the political system is indeed massive and rife, from extra payments and bribes related to export-import licenses, trade controls, tax calculations, and to loan protection. Its manifestations include patronage, nepotism, collusion, secret party funding, and suspiciously close ties between politics and business.
Second is an acute conflict of interest among state administrators. Many businesspeople and entrepreneurs become public officials, or conversely, public officials become businesspeople and business owners. They make policies that only benefit and protect themselves and their cronies.
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From the issue of oil palm plantations, coal mines, housing, to electric cars, it has even weakened the prevention and prosecution of corruption under law. What the fuss is over is the massive scope of the oligarchy, pointing to deep-rooted conflicts of interest.
Third is low competitiveness. You don't need to be an expert to know how bribery and corruption between the business and public service sectors occurs, from licensing, various facilitations for businesses, to tax evasion. As a result, the ease of doing business is undermined and there is no legal certainty for businesses. Obviously, this situation affects the competitiveness of companies and ultimately, the country.
Corruption is not just an abuse of authority and opportunity, or a means of enriching oneself, other people or corporations that is detrimental to the country's finances or economy (UU No. 31/1999; Law No. 20/2001). More broadly: "corrupt" (corruptus-a-um) and "corruption" (corruptio) in Latin refer to the opposite of virtuous values, such as integrity, ideality, reliability, and unity.
Unfortunately, because of the extent of this practice, most of us have become accustomed to allowing what is actually corrupt, polluted, and rotten. Corruption in the political and state systems, various conflicts of interest, and abuse of office are tolerated, even condoned, by the government, business, parliament, civil society, as well as academia. So don't be surprised if the CPI drops. This is the time for introspection: Stop condoning corruption, and then significantly improve its prevention and eradication. The method? Getting to the root: governance.
Governance is the root of order. There is no progress and civilization without order, and no order without governance. However, too much talk about governance is leading to loss of meaning. Perhaps this is because the "why" is rarely thought about deeply, lost in the busy of "how". In fact, it is important to understand the substance of governance in order to effectively fix the damage.
The three most influential political thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment (Aufklarung), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), were who based the philosophy of government and governance in the concept of "social contract". All three agreed that the heart of the social contract was the authority of the government, which lay in the approval of those governed.
This is the key to living in a civilized society (societas civilis). For Locke, every individual has natural rights, and an order exists to protect these. For Rousseau, on the other hand, order plays the role of achieving unity while maintaining personal freedoms.
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Although the idea of a social contract was criticized by David Hume (1711-1776) and Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), who were skeptical about the existence of a government that derived from agreement and not the power of the ruler, it provides a foundation for understanding governance in the modern-day government and social order. In short, governance must be understood as the separation of powers between those who rule and those who govern order.
This point is pivotal in thinking about the role of power and interest in today's modern order. The separation of powers can perhaps be understood through this simple idea. Those who have the power to make the rules cannot implement them; those who have the capacity to implement cannot supervise; and those who supervise cannot make the rules. That is the essence and principle of governance: to prevent conflicts of interest among those in power. This simple principle must become the basis for reorganizing various public affairs (res publica) that have become plagued by corrupt behavior.
Setting ‘res publica’
Two CPI indicators improved: legal aspects (23 to 24) and democracy (22 to 24). However, the improvements were marginal. It means that strategies and programs for eradicating corruption through law enforcement and Joko Widodo's democracy are deemed ineffective. Where did it go wrong?
In fact, Jokowi started his administration with quite basic improvements to governance, although they were not as attractive as infrastructure development to the media. He was not reluctant to continue what had been started in the previous era, and even strengthened it.
These included, for example, laying the legal basis for the One Map Policy (Perpres No. 9/2016), One Data Indonesia (Perpres No. 39/2019), and an Electronic-Based Government System (Perpres No. 95/2018) for the foundation of digital transformation; strengthening the National Corruption Prevention Strategy (Perpres No. 54/2018, updating Presidential Decree No. 55/2012), reforming the government goods and service procurement system (Perpres No. 16/2018), and making breakthroughs in the transparency of beneficial ownership (Perpres No. 13/2018) to encourage openness and accountability.
Similarly, there were initiatives to reform the bureaucracy through reforming the management of civil servant, or PNS (PP No. 30/2019), and the management of contractual government employees (PP No. 49/2018) to make it more efficient and improve the business and investment climate through the Online Single Submission (UU No. 11/2020), and many others.
Many people praised this move. The CPI score also rose from 36 (2015), to 37 (2016-2017), and then to 38 (2018), and Jokowi closed his first term with Indonesia scoring 40 (2019) and ranked 85th out of 180 countries. However, setting up a regulatory framework is not enough on its own. The point is in their implementation and ensuring there is no setback. Ironically, that's exactly what happened in his second term.
The revision of the 2019 Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law is essentially a change in strategy to weaken and realign law enforcement to preventing corruption. Various corruption eradication programs for public services and businesses, such as digitalizing public services and even the Job Creation Law, are claimed to be a grand strategy for eradicating corruption through prevention. However, the drop in CPI confirmed that this was not working. Why?
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The CPI provides a clue: the absence of governance in the political system creates conflicts of interest. The basic principle of the separation of powers and authorities is not implemented. No matter how reformist the policy, if power is not separated, the reform agenda will also collapse.
Instead of sorting out the policymakers, those who implement them, and those who supervise them, they are all mixed up: policymakers simultaneously implement, run and supervise, or participates in making policies, or even all three, with those making policies also implementing and supervising them.
Generally, this involves not only businesses and government, but also political parties. Pick randomly any case that is of concern (or not). Examine it using the simple knife of governance analysis above. The root is immediately visible: no separation of powers, no governance.
Time to clean up
Therefore, although limited, several key things can be done to improve governance. One, in the short term, Jokowi must firmly say "enough", even "stop", to public officials about conflicts of interest.
Those who remain involved after being reprimanded should be subject to sanctions. History will record Jokowi's assertiveness, whether he dared stop conflicts of interest in his administration.
Two, while the elections have not yet taken place, affirm and uphold the transparency and accountability of funding political parties. This is a way to respond to the increasing risk of political corruption ahead of the 2024 elections. Although this step will not be popular, if Jokowi is a statesman who puts order first, he will not hesitate to do so.
Three, immediately pass the Confiscation of Criminal Assets Bill and the Cash Transaction Limitation Bill. This will show the government’s seriousness in improving the recovery of criminal assets and preventing the recurrence of the dirty practice of money politics that can lead to the criminal acts of corruption and money laundering.
Lastly, in the long term, lay the groundwork for law enforcement reform and regulation. One is to reform the Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP), which so far has given a lot of authority to law enforcement officials (APH), so that they often abuse their authority, including through corruption. Two is bureaucratic reform to improve the recruitment and the welfare of APH. Three is setting up an independent oversight body for APH bureaucratic reform.
The ideals of this country must be upheld and maintained by reforming order. Even though we are facing various blows, we must have faith that "a less corrupt order is not impossible" (B. Herry-Priyono, 2018: 535).
Yanuar Nugroho, Lecturer at STF Driyarkara, Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS Singapore and the University of Manchester England, former deputy chief of staff II of the president (2015-2019)
This article was translated by Kurniawan Siswo.