8 days to Indonesian elections

Prabowo laments billions 'lost to graft' as heartbreaking

Mr Prabowo Subianto said he accepts that the war on graft cannot be won overnight, but he believes he can do more than incumbent President Joko Widodo in eradicating corruption. Mr Prabowo was speaking to The Straits Times and two Japanese media outl
Mr Prabowo Subianto said he accepts that the war on graft cannot be won overnight, but he believes he can do more than incumbent President Joko Widodo in eradicating corruption. Mr Prabowo was speaking to The Straits Times and two Japanese media outlets while travelling in his private jet over West Java.ST PHOTO: LINDA YULISMAN

Presidential hopeful vows to get tough on corruption, clean up government, lift civil service pay

The thought of what Indonesia could have done with the trillions of rupiah suspected to have been pocketed by corrupt government officials over the years is heartbreaking for Mr Prabowo Subianto.

These purported losses in the state budget, which by certain estimates could amount to 2,000 trillion rupiah (S$190 billion) annually, according to Mr Prabowo, could have funded development programmes, created jobs and helped Indonesians prosper.

That is why the presidential hopeful will prioritise fighting graft if he is elected in the April 17 polls, he told The Straits Times and two Japanese media outlets during an interview while travelling in the air over West Java.

Mr Prabowo, 67, is contesting the upcoming election for the second time against incumbent President Joko Widodo, 57, himself a pro-reformist leader who has always promoted a strong anti-graft agenda since he entered politics in 2005.

While Mr Prabowo accepts that the war on graft cannot be won overnight and will take time, he believes he can do more than Mr Joko to eradicate what he calls a disease, and he is sure that ending widespread corruption in Indonesia will have a major impact on the progress of his country.

"The most important thing is we must prove to the people that there is hope, prove to them there is a clean government, a government that will not allow its officials to steal and lie," said Mr Prabowo.

The Gerindra party leader has promised to start by ensuring his government sets a good example, if he becomes president.

A holographic image of President Joko Widodo at a carnival in Banten province on Sunday. An analysis by consulting group Control Risks indicates that unless something unforeseen undermines his appeal with mainstream Muslim voters, he should be re-ele
A holographic image of President Joko Widodo at a carnival in Banten province on Sunday. An analysis by consulting group Control Risks indicates that unless something unforeseen undermines his appeal with mainstream Muslim voters, he should be re-elected comfortably in the April 17 polls. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

"I will have to prove I'm in politics to give good governance to my people," he said, adding that many Indonesians are angry at the levels of corruption that exist today.

 

The 2,000 trillion rupiah figure cited by Mr Prabowo had raised eyebrows, especially since it amounted to almost all of Indonesia's 2019 annual state budget of 2,461 trillion rupiah.

He had said his figure was derived from data released by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on April 1.

  • 8 days to Indonesian elections, rival supporters clash in Yogyakarta

  • TROUBLE IN YOGYAKARTA

    •A small group of rival supporters of presidential candidates Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto clashed in Yogyakarta on Sunday.

    •Indonesian media reported yesterday that the incident in Sleman regency started during a mini-parade by a local group affiliated with the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

    •Sleman police chief Rizky Febriyansyah said the parade was passing by the regional office of the Front Pembela Islam (FPI), which also serves as a base for supporters of Mr Prabowo. Some members of the group started shouting and allegedly threw stones at the FPI office. No one was injured.

    •The incident follows reports of a Christian man discovering that a cross placed over his late wife's burial ground and those from six other graves had been pulled out.

    •The report in The Jakarta Post yesterday came after the Indonesian authorities said last December that they were investigating a case, also in Yogyakarta, where a wooden cross used to mark the grave of a Catholic man had its tip lopped off.

    ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

    •Mr Prabowo will be heading to Palembang in South Sumatra today for a campaign event, while Mr Joko is returning to his home town in Solo, Central Java.

    WHAT DO SURVEYS SHOW?

    •An analysis by London-based consulting group Control Risks released last Friday has indicated that unless something unforeseen undermines Mr Joko's appeal with mainstream Muslim voters, he should be re-elected comfortably on the basis of his sustained popularity and achievements in infrastructure development across Indonesia.

A senior aide to Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan - who is a key member of Mr Joko's inner circle - yesterday said Mr Prabowo had misunderstood the KPK estimates, adding that the agency was merely referring to the potential losses incurred by the government in unpaid taxes.

Indonesia has long suffered from a low tax participation rate, with some experts saying that only about a tenth of Indonesians are registered taxpayers, while its tax-to-gross domestic product ratio for 2018 was just 11.5 per cent.

A key plank of Mr Prabowo's anti-graft plan is to raise the salaries of Indonesian civil servants, said to be one of the most depressed in the world. For this, he cites Singapore's success in keeping corruption relatively in check.

Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew did not tolerate corruption and, with a ministerial wage regime that sees its top government officials being among the most well paid in the world, managed to successfully stave off a graft pandemic, said Mr Prabowo.

"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys," he added, citing the popular saying. "So pay well, but demand honest work, competence, capability, that's the key."

When asked about his motivation in politics, Mr Prabowo said Indonesians deserve better than to live in a country rife with graft for so long.

He added that he is already part of the richest 1 per cent in Indonesia and hence, is not in politics for the money or personal ambition, but rather to serve, especially since he believes the current government is "not doing the right thing".

But he admitted that the country's widespread corruption will not be resolved immediately.

"It cannot be completely eliminated but we can decrease it fast," Mr Prabowo said, adding that there must be "real political will from the top" and leaders must lead by example to create a clean government.

"The top must be very committed," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2019, with the headline 'Prabowo laments billions 'lost to graft' as heartbreaking'. Print Edition | Subscribe