Tue, Oct 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

World Bank takes Indonesia to task over graft culture

AP , JAKARTA

The World Bank said yesterday that Indonesia was failing to eradicate the culture of graft inherited from ex-dictator Suharto, hampering development and exacerbating poverty in the world's fourth most populous country.

While noting that the rise of democracy since Suharto's downfall in 1998 had improved government accountability, the report said that corrupt officials from his New Order regime remained entrenched in the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the civil service.

"The civil servants and those entrusted with upholding the law remain very much a product of the New Order regime, used to ways of behavior that fundamentally undermine accountability," the report said.

"The temptation for new and old economic elites to seek to shape the rules of the game to their own advantage ... is extraordinarily difficult to check," it said.

Suharto, who ruled for 32 years, routinely handed lucrative government contracts to friends and family, and graft was cited as one of the main reasons for the economic crisis that led to his downfall.

Despite successive anti-corruption drives since 1998, Indonesia remains among the world's most corrupt countries, according to the latest corruption index from the Berlin-based Transparency International group.

"Corruption is high and imposes severe social and economic costs," the 127-page report said. "It also contributes to citizens' loss of trust in government."

The World Bank credited the government with establishing agencies to combat graft and approving the creation of an anti-corruption commission and a special anti-corruption court.

But it also said many of these agencies were weak, poorly funded and staffed by inexperienced employees.

The report, like many before it, said Indonesia must overhaul its bureaucracy so that civil servants are rewarded for good performance and punished for wrongdoing.

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