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Jakarta Post

Government-driven or incident-driven?

  • Adrianus Meliala

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 14, 2015   /  10:21 am

After 100 days, the performance of President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s administration can be judged by examining whether most of his policies have been government- or incident-driven.

'€œGovernment-driven'€ policies refer to those issued within the framework of the Nawacita agenda introduced in the presidential campaign of Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, as a general policy extrapolated to all state agencies. Since Jokowi prepared this policy long before his inauguration, followed by the formation of his dream-team Cabinet two months ago, it would be reasonable to expect the government to have started to drive national development using its capacity as the producer of strategic national policies.

Therefore, we should expect many new regulations or speeches containing initiatives or breakthroughs in delivering policies. Has this been the reality?

Unlike government-driven policies, incident-driven ones are issued when the government tends to react and to work based upon incidents. Instead of working systematically based on strategic issues, the government'€™s focus shifts rapidly in the face of new incidents. Signs of success may be visible with this style of governance, but in an extremely unsystematic way.

Incidents might include accidents, natural disasters or simply a single case deemed worthy of government response.

There at least three indications that Jokowi'€™s administration is working on a government-driven basis.

Firstly, let'€™s look at the issue of oil pricing. Jokowi'€™s decision to reduce fuel subsidies demonstrates his determination to implement his agenda in the face of huge criticism. Jokowi'€™s strong will to increase independence from oil energy have become a good foundation for his energy-related ministers.

Secondly, the marine situation in which Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has become the icon. Whatever she does seems new and interesting. New policies regarding transshipments, oil subsidies for local fishermen and the sinking of boats accused of illegal fishing are considered fresh and original.

Third, the leadership style of blusukan or engaging in impromptu visits is another signature of Jokowi'€™s era. He and the Vice President and also ministers so far seem consistent in applying such informal visits as a way to learn about real problems and formulate realistic solutions.

While not many results are visible from such visits to remote areas, Jokowi seems successful in giving the impression that strict protocol and safety regulations are not obstacles if you are honestly willing to meet and greet people.

There are also three types of situation that have colored the start of Jokowi'€™s first 100 days in the palace.

First, Jokowi'€™s ministers seem overly keen to blame the former administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and to convince people of their achievements in their brief terms.

A notable example is the decision of Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Anies Baswedan to suspend the 2013 curriculum for primary and junior high schools. Another example is how Jokowi'€™s administration has handled the continuing Sidoardjo mudflow disaster in East Java.

So far, not all ministers have come up with a to-do list on how past mistakes can be reconciled in a better way.

Second, disasters. We could be either grateful for or distressed by the fact that a number of natural and man-made disasters have become available to prop up Jokowi'€™s performance. The landslide in Banjarnegara, West Java, as well as last month'€™s AirAsia crash, are two occasions where Jokowi'€™s administration has used events to their utmost benefit.

Third, coincidences. There have been situations where Jokowi has had to take action not on his own initiative but because time has dictated. The decision to ring the changes in the top brass of the Indonesian Military, for example, is mainly an administrative decision, since several high-ranking officers have entered retirement age.

The liquidation of around 10 state auxiliary bodies, meanwhile, should not be too warmly applauded as they were in any case inactive during the Yudhoyono era. Jokowi also made the best of his first APEC Summit, which was coincidentally held a week after his inauguration, as a valuable occasion to introduce himself to the world.

Incidents, however, are largely beyond the control of governments. Therefore, the government should implement internal standards of procedure so that it can pursue comprehensive innovations or reforms instead of being driven by pragmatic desire to please the public.

It is easier for the government to set the agenda of development by being proactive. The reactive government may seem to be working, but it actually works in a disorganized way.

Jokowi'€™s administration can be forgiven for being disorganized, as it is still in its first 100 days in office.

In the future, the style should be changed to work based on planning and schedule as an indication that the government is the engine that drives the nation.

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The writer is a professor and a criminologist at the University of Indonesia and a commissioner of the National Police Commission. The above views are personal.

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