More than 8 in 10 Indonesians say that corruption is widespread throughout the nation's government and businesses. Compared with citizens in other Southeast Asian countries, Indonesians are much more likely to say that corruption is prevalent in both the government and business sectors.
Despite Leadership Change, Indonesians Say Corruption Abounds
Long considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, tales of corruption continue to afflict Indonesia despite its shift from an autocratic to a democratic state near the turn of the 21st century. Former leader Suharto ruled as dictator of the country for more than 30 years until being forced from office by popular protests in response to the corrupt nature of his dictatorship, including pilfering between $15 billion to $35 billion from state funds for his family's personal gain. Riots in 1998, spurred by economic and political upheaval as well as charges of corruption throughout leadership, ended Suharto's rule and paved the way for democracy in the world's fourth most populous country.
Following years of reform after Suharto's resignation, Indonesia held its first direct presidential election in 2004. Campaigning on a platform that included promises to curb corruption - and earning the nickname "Mr. Clean" - Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a landslide victory that year and re-election in 2009. Opinions about Yudhoyono's effectiveness in reducing corruption are mixed. In 2009, Yudhoyono himself said it could take a decade or more to clean the country of its corruption problems. But Gallup polling that began midway through Yudhoyono's first term as president shows Indonesians are more likely now than in 2006 to say corruption is widespread throughout businesses and government.
The percentage of Indonesians who say corruption is widespread throughout the country's government grew to 91% in 2011 from 84% in 2006, while the percentage of those who indicate extensive corruption in Indonesia's businesses increased to 86% in 2011 from 75% in 2006. Only in 2009 - the year of Yudhoyono's re-election - were Indonesians less likely than now to say that corruption is widespread throughout the country's leadership and businesses.
Indonesians' self-assessment of their country's corruption levels contradicts the progress found by the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (TI CPI). Although the country still scores near the bottom of the 178 nations included in Transparency International's Index, its score and national rank improved slightly from 2006 to 2010. In contrast, the country's most recent mean score on Gallup's Corruption Index - a single score calculated based on the results of questions measuring perceived corruption in local businesses and national government - equals Indonesia's worst result on that measurement since studies began in 2006.
A Different Kind of Corruption
Shortly before Yudhoyono's 2009 re-election, Inside Indonesia published an article titled "Corruption Inc." The piece explained the difference between the types of corruption experienced in Indonesia during Suharto's regime and Yudhoyono's presidency. The article drew distinctions between centralized and decentralized corruption and described the economic effect of each on the country. During Suharto's rule, the government and corruption were highly centralized at the national level, and costs associated with corruption were predictable. But the fall of the dictatorship led to decentralization of authority throughout the country, giving more power to local authorities. Instead of eliminating corruption, the article suggested, decentralization broadened the number of individuals seeking bribes and kickbacks.
Indonesia's police often gain notice as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. When asked if they have confidence in the local police in the city or area where they live, however, 88% of Indonesians say yes. At least 7 in 10 Indonesians have proclaimed confidence in local police in surveys conducted each year since 2006. Observers also blame dishonesty in the Indonesian judicial system for limiting the effectiveness of some anti-corruption efforts. Fifty-six percent of Indonesians, though, say they have confidence in the country's judicial system, up from 37% in 2010 and 43% in 2006.
Recent surveys find that Indonesians who have completed secondary education or higher are less likely than those with elementary education or less to profess confidence in their local police and in the country's judicial system.
Similarly, Indonesians residing in urban areas are typically less likely than those living in rural locales to say they are confident in local police and in the nation's judicial system.
Amid the decentralization, Indonesians have grown neither less nor more approving of local leadership. During the last three years, Gallup found that about 8 in 10 Indonesians say they approve of the leadership in the city or area where they live. Eighty-seven percent of Indonesians say they approve of their local leadership in 2011, up from 83% in 2010.
Yudhoyono has promised to make changes to his Cabinet in October 2011 in response to declining public trust in political parties and ministers and to increasing allegations of corruption scandals among these groups. He has also requested that Cabinet members and Indonesia's governing bodies ensure the passage of a bill long in the making - one that would permit Indonesia's Financial Services Authority (OJK) to oversee the nation's banks, capital markets, and insurers. The bill has yet to be passed.
Continued corruption, including the Bank Century bailout scandal that cost the country Rp 6.7 trillion ($783.9 million USD), is the impetus for proposed reform in Indonesia's financial system. Gallup, however, finds Indonesians confident in the country's financial institutions. Specifically, 76% of Indonesians said during 2011 surveying that they have confidence in their financial institutions, a sharp increase from the 51% of residents who said the same in 2010. Confidence in Indonesia's financial institutions varied during the second half of Yudhoyono's first term in office and into his second term, dropping from 61% in 2006 to 51% in 2007, improving to 59% in 2008 and 61% in 2009, and then decreasing to 51% in 2010, prior to this year's sharp improvement.
The Bank Century bailout is just one example of the cost of corruption incurred by the country's economy. Illegal logging is another. A report from Human Rights Watch in 2006 estimated that the Indonesian government lost $2 billion due to illegal logging, corruption, and mismanagement of one of the world's largest areas of remaining forest. The report claims that more than half of all Indonesian timber from 2003 to 2006 was logged illegally and that no taxes were paid on the product.
Gallup, however, finds Indonesians who work in agriculture - farming, fishing, and forestry - are generally less likely than those with other types of jobs to say corruption is widespread within the country's businesses and government. Agricultural workers do, however, have higher proportions of respondents not able or willing to answer questions about corruption. In 2011 polling, those who work in agriculture are more likely to say that they approve of the leadership of the city or area where they live and of the country's leaders.
Solutions and Implications
Yudhoyono recently addressed corruption and graft as "our biggest enemy" and reiterated his faith in and support for Indonesia's law enforcement agencies in combating corruption. Protesters outside the State Palace in Jakarta, meanwhile, wore masks portraying Yudhoyono's face with Pinocchio's nose, suggesting that the country's president lies when making such statements about anti-corruption struggles.
Ninety-one percent of Indonesians say that corruption is widespread throughout the government. To combat this epidemic, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was created in 2002. The KPK is an independent agency that has investigated scores of politicians and public officials, including the police. But one policeman, a senior officer who had his phone tapped by the agency, likened the KPK to "geckos trying to fight a crocodile" in the police force. The KPK has prosecuted a number of high-profile cases but deals only with incidents of a significant scale.
Decentralization may have resulted in smaller-scale corruption compared with the type so prevalent during the days of Suharto's rule, but the number of officials at the local level with their hands out likely results in higher rates of corruption and graft. This transition to democracy, though, has brought about an increased opportunity for the public to discuss and debate many things, including anti-corruption efforts. Coupled with the 1999 Press Law that sought to provide a legal framework for a free press following Suharto's presidency, this democratic climate is more conducive to questioning malfeasance among government and businesses and communicating concerns about corruption levels. Eighty percent of Indonesians feel that the media have a lot of freedom.
If Yudhoyono and other Indonesian officials want to eradicate corruption in their country, they should consider tougher action in the following areas.
Reform the judicial system and the police. These are the very institutions tasked with enforcing laws and prosecuting offenders, but if they are notoriously "in on the take" and are corrupt, it will be difficult to reduce the incidence of corruption. The data show that confidence in the judicial system has been mixed; currently, 56% of Indonesians say they have confidence, while 37% say they do not. Confidence in the police is quite high (88% in 2011). However, Indonesians who say they do not have confidence in the police are less likely to approve of the country's leadership, less likely to approve of Yudhoyono's job performance, and more likely to think that corruption is widespread in businesses.
Keep enforcement agencies such as the KPK and OJK independent, and support other accountability systems. Agencies such as the KPK and OJK should be allowed to operate autonomously and therefore should not have any politicians serving in them. The public's trust in the honesty of elections is rather low - in 2011, 53% have confidence in the honesty of elections, up from 48% in 2010 - so keeping politics out of these entities is crucial to helping them achieve their missions of eradicating corruption and supervising the banking industry. Supporting a free press can help keep leaders in the government and private sectors accountable and honest. In the end, stemming the tide of corruption in a country plagued for decades by such behavior begins with Yudhoyono's leadership as president.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews in Indonesia with 6,390 adults, from 2006 through 2011. Surveys were conducted July 2006; April 2007; March 15-25, 2008; April 18 to May 5, 2009; April 4-24, 2010; and May 18-31, 2011.
For results based on the total sample of adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error for the total population is ±3.8 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
The questionnaire was translated into Bahasa Indonesia. The translation process starts with an English version. A translator who is proficient in the English and Bahasa Indonesia languages translates the survey into the target language. A second translator reviews the language version against the original version and recommends refinements.
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