Indonesian Decentralization Still a Work in Progress

The implementation of the principle of decentralization in Indonesia is a far cry from its initial goal of improving public services, analysts said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a discussion in Jakarta of a white paper on “ Indonesia’s Second Decentralization Decade: The Unfolding Agenda,” Satish Mishra of the consulting firm Strategic Asia said decentralization across the country had wrought changes in the political and economic structure of regions as much as in their autonomy.

“You can say political decentralization is a big bang in a bigger big bang in the systemic reformation and transformation,” he said.

The white paper detailed recommended development steps drafted by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Strategic Asia.

He said Indonesia needed to improve its system of decentralization, introduced in 1999 and implemented in 2001, in order to adapt to current global economic and political developments.

“The mind-set about priorities, structures and decentralization goals in the second decade revolves around institutions, finance and capacity building, both on the level of individual civil servants and in the institutions’ capacity to manage and head toward decentralization,” Mishra said.

Wariki Sutikno, the director of regional autonomy at Bappenas, described decentralization in Indonesia as a dynamic process that needed to be strengthened in the four main pillars, namely political, administrative, fiscal and economic.

“Deep analysis is needed of regional development performance in various areas since decentralization was implemented,” Wariki said. “Aside from that, members of the public also need to be realistic when they propose that [decentralization] needs to be expanded to new areas.”

Mishra argued for greater awareness among the public about the level of services that they should expect from regional governments, so that they could push for improvements.

He said public services were key to consolidating democracy, but that in practice there were still many gaps between urban and rural areas in terms of the quality and accessibility of public services.

With such poor public services, the analysts concluded that decentralization as it was being implemented now was still ineffective and should be reformed by improving regional governments’ transparency and accountability in providing services.

Source: Jakarta Globe.