Corruption in Indonesian Culture – Post D

The Cameo Project is a collective of Indonesian youtube stars who aim to “inspire” and “give positive impacts” though their videos – according the the google translate version of their page. One of these videos, entitled “JOKOWI DAN BASUKI” with Eng Subs – “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction [PARODY] deals with the widespread and inherent corruption. This video was originally published in Indonesian in 2012, as Joko Widodo was rising in power and popularity as a change making politician. (However, as I write this the morning of the executions on Nusakambangan prison island I don’t see the same hope in this President as the world saw in 2012)

This interest in corruption really stems from my personal experience of Indonesia as a child, hearing stories about corruption in every aspect of life. We lived in Jakarta during the fall of Suharto, where riots were common and evacuation plans were necessary. During our 5 year stint in the country, we were evacuated three times, required to keep large sums of US dollars in our safe in case we needed to bribe our way out. As someone who has now grown up primarily in Australia this notion of such close by corruption is really interesting to me.

The everyday corruption portrayed in the video is interesting to consider, corruption is such a huge part of Indonesian culture, it is built into society and government structures, in fact, 8 in 10 Indonesians would say that corruption is widespread [Gallup, 2011]. I decided to look into this issue to try and understand why this is the case. The World Bank does significant research and work in helping countries to tackle corruption, and whilst there are a myriad of reasons why corruption occurs, on suggestion was that officials may be “compensating, in some cases, for inadequate salaries” [The World Bank, 1997].

Another consideration in this cultural issue is Indonesia’s recent history. Having been under the highly corrupt dictatorship of Suharto for 30 years until 1998, centralised corruption was part of the economy. Under Suharto’s regime corruption didn’t actually affect the economic growth greatly because the corruption occurred at high level which meant that it could be predicted and built into business dealings in the country [Kuncoro, 2008]. Interestingly, a reported conducted by Inside Indonesia in 2007 found that decentralized corruption, rather than the centralised corruption is “more detrimental to economic efficiency” because there is a “higher total level of bribes” [Kuncoro, 2008]. However, even with the change (overthrowing) of government in the 2000s corruption at high levels continued, with the 2004 ‘anti-corruption’ president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even being found to use his power to falsely frame anti-corruption officials in the lead up to his election [JC, 2011].

So essentially, corruption is fairly normal in Indonesia. Though this blog might sound like a negative attack on Indonesia, it really isn’t. Its just interesting to see how different countries function at higher levels and where corruption sits in this. Australia is by no means immune to this economic ill, and while in 2010 we had a low corruption score of 2.28 compared to Indonesia’s 8.32, according to the PERC poll [Han, 2010], I suspect we would be looking far worse in 2015 considering the ICAC and Integrity Commission being conducted at the moment.


  • Gallup 2011, Corruption Continues to Plague Indonesia, Gallup, Abu Dhabi.
  • Han, B. 2010, ‘Corruption worsens in Indonesia: survey’, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Breaking News World), March 9, 2010.
  • J C 2011, ‘Corruption in Indonesia
    Slow To Shame  ‘, The Economist, (Asia), May 26th 2011.
  • Kuncoro, A. 2008, ‘Corruption Inc’, Inside Indonesia, .
  • The World Bank 1997, Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank, The World Bank, .

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