Jakarta Globe, Josua Gantan, Jul 25, 2014
|Joko Widodo’s pay as president of Indonesia would be a fraction of the pay|
as other world leaders. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)
Jakarta. As the president-elect of Indonesia, Joko Widodo is bound to receive a pay rise that will amount to an eightfold increase of what he currently earns as the governor of Jakarta.
Official sources revealed that Joko is raking in $8,700 each year as chief of the nation’s capital, while his second in command, Basuki Tjajahaja Purnama — widely known as Ahok — earns $7,260.
Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on the other hand, reportedly makes $64,300 per year.
At face value, one may judge the figure to be on the low side for what the leader of an entire nation should earn. Bank of Indonesia governor Agus Martowardojo, for example, is paid three times more than the president at $207,450 per year.
Similarly, the president directors of several state-owned enterprises, such as Pertamina, Bank Mandiri and Bank Rakyat Indonesia, take home a significant amount more money than the president, earning up to Rp 190 million ($16,500) per month on average.
The leader of one of Indonesia’s closest neighbors, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, rakes in a staggering amount of $1,740,000 per annum, which means he earns 27 times more than President Yudhoyono.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama, makes six times more than Yudhoyono with an annual salary of $400,000.
One may wonder why Indonesia’s president — the state leader of some 250 million people — earns what some may label a “dismal” amount of money compared to the nine-digit figures coined in by senior members of the country’s enterprises.
What then, is so special about being a high-ranking government official in Indonesia?
The answer to this question lies in additional “benefits” beyond what can be seen on paper.
“Don’t just look at the salary, look at the allowances too,” Ade Irawan, coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.
“Their salaries are usually quite small, but [government officials] are entitled to various allowances, ranging from small to massive, all of which are paid for by the state,” Ade said. “They are also given an allowance for clothes, electricity, water, and many other [services].”
Siti Zuhro, a political researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) told the Jakarta Globe that there are various “unwritten” benefits that high-ranking officials regularly receive.
“What is written [on paper] is indeed meager, but [politicians] do get a lot of money; don’t be naive,” she said.
On top of the many “facilities” they enjoy, many high-ranking public officials make huge sums of money by providing their services — and essentially their names — to some of the countries larger private-owned companies.
“Special envoys [to the president] for example, earn a lot [of money] by being commissioners [of a business]. This may get them more than Rp 75 million rupiah per month,” she said.
These government employees, she added, are allowed to have their hand in more than one company.
Major businesses are often incentivized to hire politicians as members of the board as their presence and political clout would boost the company’s legal standing.
Simply put, having a high-ranking public official on the firm’s payroll may be costly, but it makes doing business in Indonesia’s multi-tiered, bureaucratic industries a whole lot easier.
As a result, however, many of these so-called “business boosters” become prone to conflicts of interest and often find themselves being accused of favoritism.
The right question
Perhaps asking whether Indonesia’s politicians make enough money would be the wrong question, Siti pointed out. The right question would be whether the current remuneration policy for public officials is one that can minimize corruption and conflicts of interest, she added.
Clearly, the long-standing practice of handing out “unwritten benefits” to politicians and providing them with the freedom to boost their finances through business means have made little impact on the fight to eradicate corruption within the Indonesian government. In fact, these political habits could very well be seen as adding fuel to the fire.
With such financially driven customs buried deep within the country’s political system, Joko and Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla face a grueling task of implementing a “mental revolution” that discourages monetary gain.