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Pain but no gain: Indonesia’s corruption crackdown

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Pain but no gain: Indonesia’s corruption crackdown
Phuket Gazette / Reuters


PHUKET: Indonesian bureaucrats are holding off spending billions of dollars on everything from schools and clinics to garbage trucks and parking meters, fearful that any major expenditure could come under the scanner of fervent anti-corruption fighters.

The paralysis is so bad that President Joko Widodo, desperate to pull Southeast Asia’s largest economy out of a slump, is considering a decree that would shield civil servants from graft busters until big-ticket projects are completed.

“There are concerns of criminalisation,” Boediarso Teguh Widodo, the finance ministry’s director general of regional budgetary spending, told Reuters. “In order to overcome this issue, the government has been asking relevant agencies ‘to calm down’ and not investigate until projects are finished.”

The official is not related to the president.

Similar problems are playing out in China, Indonesia’s top trading partner, where an unprecedented clampdown on graft has hamstrung investment and state spending.

But in Indonesia, which consistently ranks among the world’s most corrupt countries, it appears to be a lose-lose situation.

Economic growth, already under pressure because of weak commodity prices, is not getting the lift it needs from public expenditure because bureaucrats are afraid to take decisions. But the drive to root out corruption itself has had scant success since Widodo came to office just over a year ago.

In recent months, the police and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) have moved into the territory of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which was weakened by attacks from rival law enforcement agencies, parliament and Widodo’s own political party.

The police and the AGO are seen as quick to round up suspected offenders and usually cast a wide net. Although there have been few prosecutions, this has had a chilling effect on bureaucrats, who fear being caught up in investigations.

SUCKED IN

In a recent high-profile case brought by the AGO, two Jakarta transport officials were jailed after their boss was arrested for taking bribes in public bus tenders.

“We are afraid if the boss gets in trouble, all of the staff below will be sucked in,” said Heru Budi Hartono, head of Jakarta’s financial and asset management board, which handles spending for the city government.

“All of our staff are very careful and afraid,” he added. “Even the police chief has told us to go ahead (and spend) but we are still going carefully.”

To avoid “aggressive” investigators, some bureaucrats will block the paperwork needed to approve funding.

In Jakarta, a multi-million-dollar contract to build dozens of schools was postponed until next year because of “administrative issues”, according to Hartono.

The AGO denies there is a turf war with other investigating agencies, but conceded that there were problems with its approach to quashing corruption.

“We realize our handling (of such cases) can be improved,” said Amiryanto, a spokesman for the AGO. “We don’t intend to criminalize. We only want to follow the law.”

Few major corruption arrests have been made by the AGO or the police this year.

By contrast, the KPK’s biggest catches were three cabinet ministers of the previous administration and the chief of the constitutional court, all of whom were charged in cases ranging from bribery to marking up government procurement contracts.

President Widodo, who has made reviving economic growth his top priority, is banking on public spending to build the power plants, seaports and roads needed to attract much-needed investment. But spending delays due to red tape and policy disarray within his cabinet have stood in his way.

The economy expanded by an annual 4.73 percent in the third quarter, slightly faster than in previous quarters, but not enough to suggest a real turnaround. The government has said growth this year will be the slowest since 4.6 percent in 2009.

In Jakarta, only 40 percent of the city’s 2015 budget of nearly $50 billion had been spent as of November, raising concerns about the progress of much-needed infrastructure projects in the gridlocked capital of 10 million people.

Jakarta officials expect as little as half of the budget will be spent this year, with the rest being carried into 2016.

“If you want to build Jakarta, we have to do it together. If something goes wrong, please report it immediately and give some advice so nobody needs to go to jail,” Hartono said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona dies at age 60

Caitlin Ashworth

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Argentine football legend Diego Maradona dies at age 60 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: FIFA

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona died yesterday at 60 years old. Maradona, known as one of the greatest football players of all time, suffered from a heart attack.

Maradona scored the famous “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the Century” in the World Cup 1986 quarter-finals, defeating England 2-1. Maradona, then captain, was known for inspiring to win the World Cup in 1986. He represented Argentina in 4 World Cups, scoring 34 goals in 91 appearances.

President of Argentina Alberto Fernandez declared 3 days of national mourning following Maradona’s death.

“You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of them all… Thank you for having existed, Diego. We’re going to miss you all our lives.”

Many in the football community across the world posted photos and statements on social media following Maradona’s death. The Argentina national football team posted a photo on Twitter of Maradona holding the World Cup and said “You are eternal in every heart in world football.”

Argentine football player Lionel Messi posted a photo of himself and Maradona on Instagram.

“A very sad day for all Argentines and football… He leaves us, but does not leave, because Diego is eternal… I keep all the beautiful moments lived with him and I send my condolences to all his family and friends.”

Former football player Gary Lineker, who scored a goal for England in the World Cup 1986 quarter-finals game against Argentina, said Maradona is the greatest player of all time.

“By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time… After a blessed, but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God.”

SOURCES: BBC | AFP

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Thailand

BBC names Thai protest leader Panusaya in global list of 100 most inspiring women

Maya Taylor

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BBC names Thai protest leader Panusaya in global list of 100 most inspiring women | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The BBC has named prominent Thai pro-democracy activist, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka, “Rung”, as one of the world’s 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2020. The BBC’s “100 Women of 2020” list singles out women around the world who are driving change in challenging times. Panusaya is one of 3 Thai women to be listed.

As the leader of protest group, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, she came to international attention at a Bangkok rally in August, when she read out the group’s controversial 10 point manifesto calling for reform of the Monarchy – a taboo topic never publicly discussed. Her nomination follows the news that a Grammy Music executive has filed a charge of lèse-majesté against her.

The other 2 Thai women to make the list are Kotchakorn Voraakhom and Cindy Sirinya Bishop. Kotchakorn is an urban landscape architect, who promotes the importance of green and public spaces in urban environments. Her aim is to transform vast, sprawling cities into more liveable spaces, while protecting them from the impact of climate change. The BBC describes her as someone who started by prising apart the “cracked pavement” of Bangkok’s cityscape to let new ideas come through.

BBC names Thai protest leader Panusaya in global list of 100 most inspiring women | News by The Thaiger

Cindy Sirinya Bishop is the UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Gender Equality through Education, Communities and Governments. She is a TV host, actress, and model, known for her campaigns to end violence against women. She came to prominence in 2018, when she created the movement #DontTellMeHowToDress. The campaign was a response to authorities in Thailand telling women they shouldn’t dress provocatively during the Songkran period if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted.

Other women shortlisted by the BBC for the 2020 list include Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the research into the Covid-19 vaccine at Oxford University, Sanna Marin, the leader of Finland’s all-female coalition government, and Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian actress, who the BBC notes is one of very few Asian actresses to enjoy a successful career in the US.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

No vaccine, no flight – Qantas will require international travellers to be vaccinated

The Thaiger

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No vaccine, no flight – Qantas will require international travellers to be vaccinated | The Thaiger

Qantas, Australia’s national airline, is announcing a new requirement that all international travellers will need to have a vaccination against Covid-19 in a move that could become the norm for the world’s airline industry. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the Australian flag carrier would implement the measure once a coronavirus vaccine was made available to the public.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.”

“Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see what happens with Covid-19 in the market but certainly, for international visitors coming out (to Australia) and people leaving the country, we think that is a necessity.”

Joyce says the new rule is likely to become a standard practice by all airlines worldwide as many governments are now working to introduce electronic vaccination passports. Vaccination requirements are already widely used around the world for those wishing to enter certain countries, with many countries wanting travellers show they have been inoculated against yellow fever if they are coming from regions where that disease could be acquired.

The International Air Transport Association has also announced it is in the “final stages” of developing a digital health pass that it says can be used to record Covid-19 tests or vaccinations and will “support the safe reopening of borders.”

“We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation.”

Australia’s borders have been closed since March to help stop the spread of the virus, which has taken the lives of more than 1 million people worldwide. The country has even limited its own citizens arrivals from abroad by implementing a weekly quota that has left thousands stranded overseas. Qantas has grounded more than 200 planes and let go 8,500 staff members as it attempts to offset a US 1.9 billion loss.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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