Tue, 25 Mar 2008
From: The Jakarta Post
By Debnath Guharoy , Consultant
Decentralizing power, by shifting control from the central government to smaller local governments, is the will of the local population and can only be deemed progressive in a new democracy like Indonesia.

But it is a new system fraught with problems. In a special poll recently conducted across the country, Roy Morgan Research measured the response to the rollout of local governments.

In a sample projected to represent the views of close to 90 percent of the population, Roy Morgan interviewed 2,083 people aged 14-years and older.

Almost half the people interviewed felt the actions taken by members of their local government were in the member's individual interest or in the interest of their political party.

Although answers to the survey did not significantly vary according to gender or location, the young were much less forgiving.

Furthermore, 63 percent believed there had been no improvement to their economic situation since regional autonomy had been introduced.

Merely 15 percent thought their economic situation was improving and 21 percent actually thought they were worse off. This is not a ringing endorsement for the progress of democracy.

Critics will argue the decentralization of power has created more obstacles in the fight against corruption. The banter among businessmen today has changed. Instead of "Madame Ten Percent" paving the way for business to get started, in the days of the dictatorship, there are now numerous little wheels to grease in a much larger democratic machine.

Idle chatter aside, the desire to create smaller fiefdoms, by politicians wanting to carve an ever-growing number of provinces, is a worrying sign.

Today Papua is witnessing a small group of ousted politicians trying to reclaim power by slicing up the sparsely populated territory into smaller provinces for their own gain.

However, the people of Indonesia have greater faith in the federal government with the "Good Government Monitor", updated every 90 days, showing a further improvement in the October-December 2007 quarter.

Almost 60 percent believe the national government is "doing a good job running the country", a dip of just 1 percent from the previous quarter, and only 31 percent "don't trust the current government", down 3 percentage points from the previous survey.

Seventy-two percent have faith in democracy, while 87 percent believe the fight against corruption remains "one of the major problems affecting this country".

After a difficult two years, it appears the average family's main income earner was able to pay monthly household expenses in the October-December quarter of 2007. The Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index continued to climb upward, reaching a robust 115 during that period.

Not surprisingly, marketers across the spectrum of products and services, including fast-moving consumer goods, cellular networks and motorcycle manufacturers, all ended the year satisfied with the progress made under difficult economic conditions.

The long and difficult stretch appears to be improving, finally. But while signs the local economy is improving offer glimmers of hope, the economy is held hostage by an increasingly fragile global economy coping with the twin shocks of oil price increases and the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States.

These conclusions are based on Roy Morgan Single Source, the country's largest syndicated survey with more than 27,000 Indonesian respondents annually, projected to reflect almost 90 percent of the population over the age of 14. That is a universe of 140 million people.

The results are updated every 90 days. The opinions expressed here are my own.

In the creation of wealth, families and societies are enriched in numerous ways and every employer can justifiably feel proud of the contributions they make. But there are a myriad opportunities for employers to go the extra mile.

Some are leading by example. In Bangladesh, Mohamed Yunus of Grameen Bank has shown the way, empowering millions through his micro-financing schemes. And Mo Ibrahim of Celtel is promoting good governance across Africa with grants to governments setting high standards.

These new heroes are just two examples of businesspeople from the developing world joining the ranks of living legends like Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

In Indonesia, the fight against corruption cannot be won by the government alone. Associations like KADIN, Indonesia's chambers of commerce, need to take the lead in assisting the government in the fight.

Although passing a resolution is merely the first step, it can act as a call to action for individual CEOs and captains of industry to pass the message along the chain of command.

Without collective awareness, leading to individual action, Indonesia's fight against corruption will be a losing battle. If local governments are encouraged to wield power for individual gain, the situation will magnify exponentially.

The cynics among us have probably stopped caring. To them I recommend Barack Obama's "Audacity of Hope".

The writer can be contacted at Debnath.Guharoy*roymorgan.com



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