The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Revealing the invisible hand Duncan Graham

If President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was a football tragic like Peni Suparto, then Indonesia might be playing in the World Cup against Real Madrid.

But in an unreal world the leader of Indonesia is apparently into volleyball. That didn’t stop him verbally backing the nation’s chances of getting ahead in the global game when he visited Malang last month (March).

It was a brave move for a Jakarta politician not known for his football prowess or largesse. In the central East Java city soccer isn’t just another sport. It’s a life and death matter, or as some would say, more important than that.

“The president came to Malang to open the National Soccer Congress (KSN) because this is the heart of Indonesian soccer,” said Peni. “We’re the only city with two football teams. We’re fanatic, but don’t say our supporters are bonek (hooligans). They come from Surabaya. We’re Aremania.”

Arema is Malang’s top team, playing in the Republic’s Premier League. It’s named after Kebo Arema, a warrior hero of the 15th century Majapahit kingdom. Their emblem is a garish MGM-style lion, roaring from gang gateways around the city over the slogan Singo Edan – Crazy Lions.

The other team is Persema. Least said, soonest mended

Coaches who don’t perform to fans’ expectations get the graffiti treatment, their names qualified with unprintable abuse.

When he’s not talking up football as Malang City General Chairman of the All-Indonesia Football Association, Peni is the mayor of Malang, a position he’s held since 2003 as a Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP) politician.

Any challenger would need to be suffering acutely from incurable Aremania. Forget policies on fixing footpaths and plugging potholes; such municipal matters are boring, boring. There’s just one issue in the hilltown of one million, and it has nothing to do with keeping streets clean.

The KSN Malang moanfest attracted more than 500 delegates weeping about the state of Indonesian soccer. For a country with a talent catchment area of around 240 million, the world’s third most populous nation should be running rings around minnows like Spain and Brazil, let alone little Britain.

“The problem is management. We have to do this so much better,” said Peni, without going into details despite much shin-kicking. Instead he kept talking about an “invisible hand” which will direct Indonesian soccer in the future, when for many the game needs a most visible boot.

“We have a plan to make sure Indonesia will be Asian champions within five years and in the World League within 15 years,” he said. “Then our national team will be an Asian Tiger.

“Do you know why Malaysia is so good? Because they have professional management – and lots of money. There used to be money for sport when gambling was legal in Indonesia.”

The State-run lottery was abolished during the Soeharto era following pressure from Islamic groups.

Arema gets its financial support from a local tobacco manufacturer; in the politically correct West cigarette sponsorship for sport is taboo.

Peni was talking during a trip to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Although the country has little more than four million people, the All Blacks rank number one in the International Rugby Board’s world list.

The Rugby World Cup will be played in NZ next year. Despite the domination of rugby, Wellington’s Phoenix soccer team has become the best in the country, competing internationally.

Being indifferent to sport in NZ is like being unable to talk Javanese in Java. The personable Peni was able to walk in both camps.

During his week in Wellington, where Peni headed a group of high school principals keen to develop close ties with NZ schools, the mayor took time out to check the city’s extensive sporting facilities provided by local government.

“When I was a kid in Kediri we had to play with a plastic bal,” said Peni. He’s no sofa barracker abusing referees while waving a TV channel changer at the screen.

For 21 years he played ‘the beautiful game’, as they say in Brazil, mainly as a striker. The mayor is a little lad and must have been a nimble sportsman to survive against the big boys. When not on the field he lectured in civil administration at the former Malang teacher’s college, now the University of Malang

Now he’s 64 but looks 50, proof sport can do magic things for a man’s well-being.

During his tour Peni came across two teams of seven year olds training during their holidays. They were practising on outdoor and indoor grounds, supervised by university students.

The contrast with most Indonesian cities was stark. Kampong residents will be familiar with the everyday sight of barefoot kids turning bitumen into soccer grounds, piles of shoes pegging out the goal posts.

However talented, the wannabe Maradonas will be struggling without boots and the chance to train on grass in a properly marked pitch with skilled adult direction.

“I agree facilities have to be improved,” said Peni. When reminded that a sports ground in the Malang suburb of Sawojajar is now the site of a petrol station he said nothing could be done because the land was privately owned.

“Football is egalitarian,” said Peni, watching little Kiwis dribble balls round plastic cones, then shoot for goal, doing their best to punch holes in the net.

“Anyone and everyone can play. We need talent scouts out in the regions looking for the next generation of players. We need professional quality coaches.”

Did this mean importing players and coaches from overseas? Now we’re talking serious money when the price of a top player is about equal to an aircraft carrier. Well, yes, but Peni wasn’t about to shout that from the stands to partisan crowds, not so crazy that they want to pay more tax.

“We’re nationalists. I want Malang to be Indonesia’s education city where we can exchange teachers and students – and ideas on improving sport in Indonesia.” And the cash?

“We need commitment, particularly from the national government.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 20 April 2010)


Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Sefton Darby
Publish what you pay

Corruption is tough to tame, as the government knows well. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged to beat the beast when he took office in 2004, but six years later it’s still biting.

Maybe a clean administration is just an ideal from outside being imposed on cultures with different values and histories. Not so, according to Sefton Darby, a director of the NGO Transparency International (TI) in New Zealand.

TI is the anti-corruption agency that’s ranked Indonesia 111 among 180 nations measured by its corruption perception index.

“I don’t see this as a Western hang-up,” he said. “Culture isn’t static. Individuals can change when given the right leadership. The evidence shows that in countries with well-run governments people live in equitable societies and enjoy better standards of living.

“However change is best when it comes from within.

“Transparency is a threat to the corrupt. It’s not just a nice thing, a good word. I’ve worked in many countries and met hardly anyone at the village level who hasn’t complained about the wickedness of local officials and expressed their frustration with corruption.

“Corruption damages the international perception of a country and impacts on investment. It pays in the short term but it always leads to disaster in the long run.”

Mr Darby was in Jakarta last month to take part in a four-day international workshop on transparency, backed by Inwent, a German non-profit organization involved in international training and education.

It was the first such workshop in the region. Participants included government, NGO and private company representatives from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines.

Mr Darby said getting people away from their own countries to talk about contentious issues usually resulted in rational discussions, opening dialogue between groups that might be hostile to each other in their homeland.

He also attended meetings on transparency issues surrounding the huge Cepu oil field in Central Java, which is being developed by the US giant Exxon Mobil and the state oil company Pertamina. It is expected to be in full production by 2013 but the project has run into problems with local authorities and communities.

Mr Darby has long been involved with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), promoted by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. This aims to persuade companies and governments to be open about incomes, royalties and payments from oil, gas and mining projects.

The slogan behind the philosophy is “publish what you pay” so everyone can determine whether the distribution of funds is fair.

The idea is to ensure that the exploitation of natural resources benefits all. This is a tough ask when there are so many competing parties and ideologies – shareholders, employees, local communities, bankers, foreign and local governments, and other companies that supply services and infrastructure. Soaking through all this are local politics, nationalism and debates over who owns what.

“Indonesia is not yet a member of EITI but is moving in that direction and I’m confident it will get there,” said Mr Darby. “When it does, that will be of enormous significance.

“Some companies and government agencies use the ‘commercially confidential’ argument to avoid releasing data. But not all companies have a monolithic view and corporations differ from country to country.”

Mr Darby, 35, is a New Zealander who has enjoyed a rocket-powered career. After graduating from Otago University in his homeland, he won a scholarship to study at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He graduated with a master’s degree in international security.

He then worked for the UK Cabinet office as a policy adviser before becoming an assistant director in the Central Strategy Unit. A year later he was a policy analyst in the Department for International Development, which developed the first EITI communications strategy.

After working as a consultant with the World Bank, he started his own consultancy back in NZ, the country that ranks first in the TI index, closely followed by Singapore and Denmark. The UK ranks 17 and the US 19.

“I think that being a New Zealander helps my credibility, although NZ’s status as a country of minimal corruption isn’t widely known,” he said.

While this interview was underway, a senior minister in the NZ government quit because he’d used his official credit card for personal purchases of less than Rp 500,000 (US $54).

Although he’s been an infrequent visitor to Indonesia, Mr Darby has worked in countries with worse corruption ratings like Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Many of the problems that bedevil Indonesia are not exclusive to this nation, and are often linked to rapid development of natural resources and sudden surges of money. Even when good transparency programs are in place, getting the information out can be tricky.

Not everyone can read a profit and loss statement, appreciate the issues of risk capital and returns on investment, or navigate through the fog of jargon that clouds the business of business.

Should information be aggregated or disaggregated? When people don’t get all the information they want – or can’t understand it – they believe bad things and make accusations.

“Just because an issue is complicated doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be explained,” Mr Darby said. “That’s the challenge. Transparency can’t fix every problem, but it can open a door to other issues.

“Indonesia, like many other countries, has a hyper-complex bureaucracy and social structure. But there has to be separation between the elites of politics and the economy.

“Driving cultural change is risky territory, best left to the locals. However, there are advantages in being an outsider. You’re not part of the local system and you can’t be easily pinned by accusations of being mates with so and so.

“The best you can be is an honest broker.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 5 April 2010)