Jumat, 02 Juli 2010

“Democratization from inside” and vision to construct new format of regional autonomy in Indonesia: keeping local authorities democratic through empowerment of local institution

Abstract.  Format desentralisasi yang ada sekarang adalah pemberian otonomi luas kepada Kabupaten/Kota dan otonomi yang terbatas kepada Propinsi. Disatu sisi, kebijakan desentralisasi ini telah membawa banyak kemajuan yang berarti, baik secara politis maupun sosio-ekonomis. Namun disisi lain, harus diakui bahwa masih banyak agenda yang belum terlaksana, yang mengindikasikan kemungkinan gagalnya otonomi daerah. Indikasi terkuat dari belum berhasilnya UU Nomor 22 Tahun 1999 adalah belum menguatnya demokrasi akar rumput dan taraf kesejahteraan masyarakat. Akibatnya, hakekat otonomi sebagai pemberian kewenangan kepada kesatuan masyarakat hukum menjadi sedikit menyimpang, dalam arti hanya dipersepsi sebagai otonomi pemerintahan daerah. Kondisi ini memiliki dua implikasi negatif, yakni munculnya arogansi daerah dan penurunan kualitas demokrasi lokal, serta terabaikannya kepentingan dan pelayanan masyarakat. Untuk menghindari hal tersebut, diperlukan adanya proses “demokratisasi dari dalam” berupa pemberdayaan institusi lokal dibawah kabupaten/kota.

The recent format of decentralization policy in Indonesia grants extensive discretions to district/city governments and limited authorities to province governments. On the one hand, this policy generates some political and socio-economic progresses. However, there are some unrealized agendas that indicate the potential failure of regional autonomy. The most prominent unsuccessful story of Law 22/1999 is that autonomy is seen merely as local governments’ rights. As a result, it fails to strengthen grass root democracy and to improve local residents’ welfare. This situation implies two negative facets of recent decentralization in Indonesia: the appearance of local arrogances and decreasing quality of democracy; and the ignorance of public interests and services. To prevent such kind of policy failure, “democratization from inside” is required through empowerment of local institution below district/city level.


The debate on the implementation, the problems and the prospect of regional autonomy in Indonesia has been sharpened. Oftentimes, however, it disregards the core essence of autonomy. According to Law No. 22/1999, the spirit of wide-autonomy policy is returning back the authorities of legal-and-political local communities (kesatuan masyarakat hukum) to arrange their household affairs independently. In this sense, the concept of “legal-and-political local communities” refers not only to local governments (districts/kabupaten and cities/kota), but substantially it should entail local business actors, NGOs, professional associations, as well as governmental units at the grass root level i.e. village government (kelurahan and/or desa), including two tiers of neighborhood association (rukun tangga and rukun warga).

Nevertheless, autonomy and decentralization is largely perceived as a process of devolving functions and responsibilities and transferring resources from central to local government (with emphasis on district and city governments). Consequently, Law No. 22/1999 has frequently been considered as a regulation on “autonomy of local government units” rather than “autonomy of legal-and-political local communities”. Some phenomena support this observation. In rearranging their organizations, for example, many district and city governments tend to establish “big-sized government”, though it would make their financial capacity weaken. The passing of many new local regulations on fee and tariff that generates high-cost economy is another case.

Under such situation, pessimistic calculation takes place. Up to the third year of the implementation of wide-autonomy policy, many observers hesitate its efficacy in improving public welfare and public services.

In order to accelerate the expected results of decentralization, amendment of Law No. 22/1999 or promulgation of new regulations as interpretation of Law No. 22/1999’s articles is really required. In this regard, the devolution process of function, responsibilities and resources from district/city governments to internal institutions and community groups should be the priority scheme in the future. By giving trust and power to both lower organizational units and social groups, not only keeping local authorities democratic, it will also empower local organizations to actively and autonomously participate in the decision-making process of decentralized governance.

Problems of Recent Autonomy: Unrealized Agendas

Many literatures explore the benefits of decentralization in political, economic and administrative field (MOHA and Ministry of National Development Planning, 2002; Smith, 1985, Rondinelli, 1981, Ford, 1999, etc.). Politically, decentralized government is generally viewed as a participatory, and therefore, democratic governance. In other word, decentralization policy constitutes the entry point for introducing good local governance. On the other hand, decentralization should, economically, be able to produce higher social welfare and better quality of public services. In short, there is a wide-ranging agreement that decentralization or regional autonomy is extremely needed to promote a superior, more effective and more democratic governance. That is the reason why both in developed and developing countries, decentralization forms a key element of the reform agendas.

Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that people’s life will automatically raise after the implementation of decentralization policy. Some countries (including Indonesia) have either actual or potential failures in executing such policy (Utomo, 2002a). Achievement of decentralization purposes, hence, depends strongly on the readiness and capability of local government in actuating and interpreting national policy into local context.

On the perspective of Indonesian policy on regional autonomy, there are some quandaries that may halt the realization of decentralization agendas. The following are some examples of the recent problems faced.

1.        There is a big gap between district/city government on the one hand, and sub-district/village government on the other hand, in terms of human and financial resources.
After the enactment of financial balance law (Law No. 25/1999), financial resources in district/city government are quite affluent. In addition, decentralization policy leads to transfer of personnel from central to local government. Since then, many local governments experience a kind of “obesity”, particularly in personnel aspect. The number of local employees is overwhelming the main tasks of the organizations. It implies the demand to redistribute the huge amount of personnel to other institutions. Ironically, prosperous resources in district/city government are not shared with the lower government, i.e. sub-district and village governments. It is the fact that sub-district and village governments are often complaining about lack of human and financial resources. As a result, complain on the low performance of public services are rather pervasive. Unfortunately, both district/city and village government is not so efficient, though they encounter different situation.
In the near future, sharing of power and resources between district/city government and sub-district/village government (including other social components) should be accommodated in the policy agenda. Yet it is important to bear in mind that redistribution of human resource to sub-district and village government may have to be performed hand in hand with other policy adjustment such as increasing echelon level at sub-district and village government offices.

2.        The passing of many new local regulations on fee and tariff (retribusi).
Related to the problem of financial balance, some district/city governments insist that flow of funds from central government is far from adequate. Therefore, they try to optimize their own sources through promulgation of Local Regulation (Perda) on tax and charges. During the period of May 1999 to May 2002 there were 1.183 Perdas on tax and charges reported to and evaluated by MOHA; and 80 of those had been cancelled either by MOHA or individual local government issuing the Perda (Media Indonesia, 21 Nov 2002). According to Soesastro (2001), one of the most hazardous impacts is obstructing inter-regional trade and weakening competitiveness of local commodities.

3.        Local egoism and arrogances.
From the beginning, many experts such as Kimura (1999) warn that regional autonomy may lead to the expansion of “local kingdom”. Recent phenomena advocate such caution. Utomo (2002b) asserts that there are two types of local egoism, upward and downward egoism.
Upward egoism can be observed from the unwillingness of many district/city governments to comply with national and superior rules. For instance, Indramayu district government in West Java Province persists to implement Perda on oil processing tax even though it has been abandoned by MOHA. The reason is that the Decree of MOHA has no executable legal power due to Indramayu’s request to the Supreme Court on judicial review. In fact, Decree No. 41/2001 provides that MOHA has a right of repressive control over local regulations. Similarly, Cilacap district government in Central Java Province involves in a conflict with Ministry of Transportation regarding management of sea harbor.
Meanwhile, downward arrogances are quite noticeable from the unwillingness of many district/city governments to share their power/resources to other local organizations or local components. That’s why, executive and legislative bodies seem to be much more influential as corruption becomes more apparent. At the same time, although there are some emerging positive awareness from local people as indicated by the establishment of NGOs, the expansion of social protest/demonstration, the enhance of people’s self-help capacity (swadaya), etc., the role of local government is still much more dominant than that of private and community sectors. As a result, public participation never emerges as real participation of individuals; it materializes merely as institutional participation, and even mobilization.
4.        Although there are some progresses in delivering public service, but the quality of services is still far from satisfying.
Almost in all indicators of public services, most of local governments could not able to achieve better performance. In “macro” indicator such as education services (literacy rate and mean year of schooling), health services (life expectancy and infant mortality rate) and purchasing power parity (PPP), many province and district/city governments fail to improve the index of human development (Utomo, 2002c). Accordingly, they show a low performance of “micro” public service such as roads and traffic congestion, garbage/disposal, clean water and sewerage, electricity sufficiency, etc. The main justification for low quality of public service is financial obstacles. However, professionalism and “sense of good city management” are also crucial factors in promoting better, cheaper, and faster public services.

Certainly, there are many other unidentified problems. The main cause is not decentralization policy itself, but lack of supporting actions such as empowering local institutions as a way of democratizing local governments. The following part proposes two required actions to prevent the above dilemmas, and, at the same time, to fortify the implementation of recent policies on decentralization.

Ways toward New Format of Regional Autonomy

The present policy on regional autonomy can actually be corroborated as “on the right track”. However, some adjustments might alter the basic format of the policy. The following proposals, if consistently applied, would shift the focus and spirit of wide-autonomy from district/city to sub-district/village governments.

1.      Internal Decentralization (second stage of decentralization) and Competitive Governance in the Framework of Sub-district and Village Governments Empowerment.
In general, the term “internal decentralization” requires district/city governments to redistribute their discretion of power to the lower level of governmental units within their own region, just after receiving from central government. The balance of resources (human, financial and infrastructure) between district/city and sub-district government should be formulated soon. To some extent, a consequence will occur from this policy, that is, a need for institutional arrangement. In this sense, the institution of district/city government should be downsized, whereas that of sub-district and village government might be expanded and strengthened. As a result, organization in sub-district and village level will satisfy the principle of rich in structure and function, while organization in district/city level prefers to be fit in function but lean in structure.
In the near future, some delegation of power from district/city as well as sub-district government to village government is required. By so doing, local governments may obtain at least four benefits: 1) the working load of district/city as well as sub-district government will be shared to the lowest level of government. It also means that village and sub-district government will be the leading agent of public services; 2) district/city governments do not need to assemble a big structure of internal organization; 3) district/city’s expenditure may be utilized evenly, and therefore, productively for all sub-district and village governments; and 4) as a means to optimize sub-district and village governments’ functions.
In line with this, the allocation of funds (similar to Dana Alokasi Umum – General Allocation Fund) should be distributed for all sub-district and village governments in a competitive way. This mechanism is known as “Competitive Government”. The idea is that every success should be rewarded, whereas each failure should be punished (reward and punishment system). According to this system, only sub-district/village government that is able to meet certain requirements (e.g. fulfilling government’s minimum standard of services / Standar Pelayanan Minimal) will be granted DAU or subsidy (subsidy as a reward).
It is fortunate that some local government has planned and implemented this idea. Ogan Komering Ulu district in South Sumatra Province, for example, had declared the “village autonomy” program in the beginning of year 2003. In case of Bandung City government, the Major issued a Decree No. 1342/2001 that transferred 96 authorities and financial sources to sub-district governments. To realize the delegated authorities, each sub-district is granted Rp. 400 million/year (around \ 6 million). However, this amount of money constitutes merely as stimulus fund to encourage people’s self-help capacity (swadaya). Head of Margacinta Sub-district government, City of Bandung, confirms that in a canal construction project, the sub-district government spends only Rp. 11 million from the total cost of more than Rp. 80 million. Approximately Rp. 70 million is borne by local people through voluntary donation mechanism.

2.      Strengthening Social Local Institutions.
a.      Giving new roles to neighborhood association (RT or RW).
Previously, the functions of neighborhood associations are simply related to social affairs such as conflict among members, incidence of mourning, sport and religious activities, etc. Moreover, they often associated with government’s “agents”. Surprisingly, they have an aptitude to be an entrepreneur society.
The neighborhood association in Cigadung Village Government, City of Bandung, is probably an extraordinary case. There is a piece of land in the area of Wijayakusuma housing complex. It was used to collect and store garbage that not only bothered the inhabitants due to awful smell and view; it was also harmful for health and environment. Under the agreement of all dwellers, the operation method was changed. The association (RT) built some small kiosks and leased competitively to local businessmen that should pay monthly fee. The changing use of the land leads to a cleaner, healthier atmosphere and wealthier neighborhood association. In turn, their financial capacity is getting improved, and indirectly, it supports local government’s financial capacity.
This is just an example of empowered community. The basic notion is how to enlarge community groups’ rights and give them trust to manage their own residence, interests, and all of their household affairs.
b.      Establishing “consultancy mechanism” consisted of local purely private institutions (NGOs, media companies, labor unions, research institutes, vested and pressure groups, etc.) and semi-government / semi-private institutions (e.g. PKK or Dharma Wanita).
It is commonly recognized that people’s participation in the decision-making process is rather dubious. Even though bottom-up planning is massively introduced, local government remains the single actor of development. As a result, the management of development in Indonesia deployed quasi-participatory planning mechanism for a long time.
Improving the quality of development in a democratization era does require the dynamic involvement of all shareholders and stakeholders. In that sense, building a local network as a consultancy mechanism is a strategic alternative. Through such network, every decision and policy should be discussed before implementation. Implicitly, it also means that local development is a mutual responsibility of all local community components.

By executing the above two actions, the format of regional autonomy in future Indonesia will automatically changed. The emphasis of discretion of power is being set at the lowest governmental units (i.e. sub-district and village government), not at district/city level anymore. In other word, the upcoming policy of decentralization is predicted to grant extensive discretions to sub-district and village governments and limited authorities to province and district/city governments.

Concluding Remarks

The recent format of autonomy highlights the political and governmental powers on district/city government. In the future, such power should be shared out to both lower governmental units such as sub-district and village government, and local social institution. Without equal distribution of power, responsibility and resources among local community components, decentralization policy will produce centralized regime in local level. To avoid sort of “irony of autonomy”, a process of “democratization from inside”, i.e. empowering local institutions to eagerly take part into local policy formulation and implementation, constitute a strategic option toward a new format of regional autonomy.

In addition, it is a fact that decentralization spirit introduced in Law No. 22/1999 was central government’s initiative to democratize local governments. However, democratization from above and from outside is not believed to be effective as democratization from inside or from oneself. In other word, the commitment of district/city governments to build a “democratic infrastructure” within their own environment will determine not only the success of decentralization policy, but also the effort to realize good and democratic local governance.


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This paper was presented at The 12th Indonesian Scientific Meeting, Osaka University, Japan, September 6-7, 2003.

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