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New anti-corruption chief faces tough task in reviving fight. Aceh province gets mixed results on tsunami reconstruction. National soccer team rekindles country’s spirit. Fuel subsidies finally on the way out? Drastic measures try to curb Jakarta’s traffic. Protected monkeys rob from the rich.
Top: Following a somber swearing in ceremony that could have symbolized the state of Indonesia’s fight against corruption, new anti-graft czar Busyro Muqoddas started his first day on the job on Dec. 20 with a vow to tackle high profile cases.
But in a year where critics and anti-corruption activists claim Indonesia lost ground in its battle against endemic corruption because of political meddling, there are mixed views about how much Muqoddas can accomplish in a curiously mandated one-year term as head of the independent Corruption Eradication Commission.
Indonesia is one of the most corrupt countries in Asia, with graft being exposed within the national and provincial governments, National Police, Attorney General’s Office, the judiciary and national and local legislatures. Although President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won two elections on an anti-corruption platform, the fight against pernicious, ingrained corruption faltered in 2010.
Just days before the sixth anniversary of the 2004 tsunami, a United Nations report on Aceh province gave mixed reviews about reconstruction and development in the worst-hit region.
The rebuilding effort in the province, where more than 177,000 Indonesians died in an earthquake-triggered tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004, has been impressive, according to the U.N. report. However, Aceh continues to lag behind the rest of the country in poverty alleviation, life expectancy and other social indicators.
Entire villages and more than one-third of the provincial capital Banda Aceh were destroyed or washed away by giant waves, which overall killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries.
The country was awash in red and white through much of December, but it had nothing to do with the Christmas holidays. Succumbing to a mass wave of nationalism, Indonesians rallied around their men’s national soccer team, which made it all the way to the finals of Southeast Asia’s Suzuki Cup.
Wearing the country’s official red and white colors (known as “merah putih” in Indonesian), the team could do no wrong until falling to Malaysia. Regardless, their run in the competition brought a sense of nationalism not seen in Indonesia in years.
The euphoria came at a price, however. Unruly home supporters ran riot after waiting in vein overnight outside Jakarta’s Bung Karno Stadium on Dec. 25 for cheap tickets to the second leg match. They smashed fences inside the stadium, clashed with security personnel and damaged parts of the pitch.
Money: The Indonesian government appears to have finally mustered the courage to end decades-long subsidies on gasoline for private cars — or has it? Officials and members of the house of representatives agreed on Dec. 13 to stop subsidizing fuel, but the measure won’t go into affect until March at the earliest.
Under the plan, subsidized Premium fuel would be off-limits to drivers beginning on New Year’s Day, but lawmakers insisted it be pushed back, leaving the window open for the government to again scrap the plan if there is public opposition. Rising prices are politically fraught in countries such as Indonesia, which must decide between taking the fiscal hit of offsetting fuel price increases through subsidies or pass costs onto inflation-wary consumers.
Floating gasoline for private cars on international market prices will also spare the government the wasteful political bickering with lawmakers when subsidies will have to be increased anytime international oil prices rise steeply.
Overwhelmed by worsening traffic that within four years could leave Jakarta’s roads completely gridlocked, city officials on Dec. 27 announced that drivers will face higher taxes in the new year if they own more than one vehicle.
Under the new rule, owners will be taxed 1.5 percent of the vehicle's value for their first vehicle, 1.75 percent for the second, 2.5 percent for the third and 4 percent for the fourth and above. Jakarta is considering other drastic measures, including limiting cars from going on the roads to every other day to creating a traffic superbody.
Elsewhere: Protected monkeys that inhabit a wildlife reserve in North Jakarta might be feeling a bit too above the law, given reports of troops sneaking into a neighboring luxury housing complex in search of food.
A forest policeman working at the reserve said residents from the nearby golf estate have complained for more than two years about monkeys from the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve taking fruit from their trees, ransacking garbage cans and even stealing offerings laid out on Chinese-style household alters.