Against the Odds: Attempting Reform in Suharto's Indonesia, 1967-1998
Focus: Building a Reform Team and Staff, Containing Patronage Pressures, Civil Service
Topics: Corruption in the Civil Service
Type: Case Studies
Author: Matthew Devlin
Keywords: , corruption, Suharto, Indonesia
President Suharto of Indonesia (1967-1998) presided over one of the most corrupt regimes of the 20th century. For over three decades, the political and financial interests of Suharto's family, cronies and allies in the military dictated the policies of the Indonesian state. Nevertheless, a handful of public officials attempted to rationalize, improve and clean up the way government worked. Emil Salim and Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, both cabinet ministers under Suharto, were two such men. The pair struggled to manage the influence of the military, motivate a moribund bureaucracy and confront Suharto's many cronies. Lacking formal mechanisms through which to channel their efforts, Salim and Kusumaatmadja seized on passing targets of opportunity, structuring and adapting their initiatives on an ad hoc basis and relying on unconventional tactics. Although their successes proved unsustainable, their story offers specific lessons in the often elusive tactics of how individual public officials can achieve modest change against institutional inertia and determined opposition from vested interests.