“The Indonesian bureaucracy evaluates development programs based on administrative and quantitative reports.“
– Desti Parahita ‘Communication for Sustainable Development in Reformasi Indonesia‘
These reports are needed to keep the machines of politics and business running, or so we mere mortals are lead to understand. We are lead to believe that our welfare depends on “economic development”, so we are bidden to produce and consume …
… while politicians sleep.
Behind the scenes there is an army of worker ants bidden … nay, programmed to keep the wheels turning. They do not make decisions based on humanity’s core moral principles because they are not permitted to stray from the diktats of government or business who employ them.
Here in Indonesia, when a corrupt regent or governor instructs their inner circle of bureaucrats to do their bidding, they comply. Lower echelons whose task is to serve we the people, they prevaricate, without recognising that they are not viewed as thinking folk. After all, they are employed by a Human Resources Department (HRD).
My Webster’s dictionary defines ‘resources’ as “something that a country, state, etc. has and can use to its advantage“, a similar definition to ‘tool’ or ‘implement’, which are “devices to be used in a given capacity.” It follows, therefore, that ‘human resources’ are but tools to be used.
The use of the word ‘human’ is obviously at odds with ‘resources’. Being taken advantage of does not accord with civil rights, the right to be useful. There is no ‘right’ to be used, yet the bureaucracies of governments and the corporate world dehumanise people, by whom I mean their employees and workers with specific job titles.
Some, such as the private Permata Bank, the state-owned Bank Mandiri, and the non-transparent Sampoerna Business Group take this one step further by having a Human Capital Services Department, Division or Group. What next? A Human Revenue Services Division with a colour bar: black and red?
However, it’s not just language which affects the mindset of Indonesian bureaucrats but the remnants of Javanese, Dutch and Soeharto-ist colonialism.
Rowan in Bali has written: There are few kind words to be said about any bureaucracy, anywhere in the world (perhaps fewer than colonialism itself). A happy medium somewhere between the facelessness of the stringent Dutch bureaucracy and its ugly post-colonial offspring that is manipulated by those in positions of power is a true rarity. In Indonesia, the colonial roots of the nation’s civil service are clear and remain – seventy years after independence – woven into the fabric of the archipelago’s politics.
That ‘fabric’ is centuries old. Priyayi is a Javanese word coined initially for court officials in pre-colonial kingdoms, the descendants of the adipati or governors, the first of whom were appointed in the 17th century by the Sultan Agung of Mataram to administer the principalities he had conquered. They subsequently moved into the Dutch colonial civil service, and then on to become administrators of the Indonesian republic.
In his book Religion of Java (1960), the social anthropologist Clifford Geertz examined the social status of the priyayi. They distinguish themselves from the peasantry and the merchant class by defining their work for the government as alus (refined), as opposed to trading, farming, and laboring, which are defined as kasar (unrefined).
The Dutch established schools known as Opleiding School Voor Inlandsche Ambtenaren (OSVIA). Student fees were high and, as stipulated in a regulation issued in 1919 by the Dutch government, they were selected based on personal recommendations from administration officials. Bupatis (regents) could exercise a right to submit the names of relatives and friends. Therefore, only the gentry class could afford to enrol their children in OSVIA.
A hundred years later, attitudes towards serving the needs of the nation rather than vested interests are still barely recognised, and that will be the focus of Part 3b. In the meantime, for an insider’s viewpoint of the problems within the successor to OSVIA, the National Institute of Public Administration, download and read this paper which ponders why “a policy of innovation … is poor in creating breakthroughs.“
There have been “numerous criticisms and shortcomings of government agencies in delivering public service served as basis of NIPA reform because this agency has responsibility to train government officials and managers to serve people. Poor breakthrough or innovation in the public sector leads to poor quality in the public service delivery. New training model, which was introduced by NIPA in 2013, is seen as a response to improve officials’ attitude and spirit and to shift their paradigm in conducting public service.”
Read on …