`Government not serious' about inviting investors to regions

Harry Bhaskara, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"The government has been slow to respond to the desire of investors to put their money into the provinces," claims a deputy speaker of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

"The central government is just playing around. It's not serious about attracting investment to the provinces," Irman Gusman complained during a discussion at the Habibie Center on Thursday.

Citing one example, he said a local investor in West Java with US$100 million to spend had to wait two months just to meet a ministry director general.

"This means the central government does not mean business. It is not speaking the same language," he said.

Irman said the central government was reluctant to surrender its powers to the regions.

However, while criticizing the central government, Irman admitted that the problems at the local level were even worse. He said there was a long way to go before the investment climate in the provinces could be improved, adding that reforming local government bureaucracies was the first step that needed to be taken.

The discussion came on the heels of the publication of a study on investment in four provinces -- East Java, Bali, West Sumatra and East Kalimantan.

Funded by the Habibie Center and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the researchers attempted to identify linkages between the performance of local government bureaucracies in each region and the attractiveness of these regions to investors.

Based on their findings, the researchers -- Dr. Siti Zuhro, Dr. Umar Juoro and Dr. Andrinof Chaniago -- concluded that there was no option but for local bureaucracies to be reformed if the regions wished to attract inward investment.

However, Ryas Rasyid a professor at the State Public Administration School (IIP), said it was even more urgent to change the mind-sets of political leaders at the local level.

"What we need to reform first are the politicians," said Rasyid, who was the state minister for administrative reforms in the government of president Abdurrahman Wahid.

A total revamp is needed in the way politicians are selected and groomed, he said. In addition, the way in which their performances were assessed needed to be improved.

"In fact, the bureaucrats are the victims of the politicians," he argued.

In the past, Rasyid added, the bureaucracy had also been the victim of Soeharto.

"Now, it is even worse than the Soeharto years as the bureaucracy has to kowtow to the various political parties. The bureaucracy has always been destroyed by the politicians."

The local direct elections that have taken place across the country, he said, have threatened to divide the bureaucracy.

"The bureaucracy is deeply divided in many regions. There are a lot of problems happening right now," Rasyid explained.

Newly elected local leaders, he said, often replaced the civil servants who had worked for their predecessors as soon as they took up office.

Hundreds of local elections have taken place since June last year, involving nearly 400 regencies and municipalities in all of the country's 33 provinces.

However, Rasyid argued that the government should not require all local elections to be held right away.

Only those regions whose own-source revenue was at least five times as much as it would cost to hold the elections should hold polls, he said.

Critics allege that local elections around the country have been marred by bribery and nepotism.

Rasyid referred to the type of elections currently taking place as "communal elections".

"Newly elected leaders tend to pick their staff from among people from their own mosque or church, or from the same place of origin or from the same ethnic group," he complained.
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