Country Listing

Indonesia Table of Contents


Local Government

Government administration is processed through descending levels of administrative subunits. Indonesia is made up of twenty-seven provincial-level units. In 1992 there actually were only twenty-four provinces (propinsi), two special regions (daerah istimewa)--Aceh and Yogyakarta--and a special capital city region (daerah khusus ibukota)--Jakarta. The provinces in turn were subdivided into districts (kabupaten), and below that into subdistricts (kecamatan). There were forty municipalities or city governments (kotamadya) that were at the same administrative level as a kabupaten. At the lowest tier of the administrative hierarchy was the village (desa). According to 1991 statistics, Indonesia had 241 districts, 3,625 subdistricts, 56 cities, and 66,979 villages.

Since independence the nation has been centrally governed from Jakarta in a system in which the lines of authority, budget, and personnel appointment run outward and downward. Regional and local governments enjoy little autonomy. Their role is largely administrative: implementing policies, rules, and regulations. Regional officialdom is an extension of the Jakarta bureaucracy. The political goal is to maintain the command framework of the unitary state, even at the cost of developmental efficiency. Governments below the national level, therefore, serve essentially as subordinate administrative units through which the functional activities of Jakarta-based departments and agencies reach out into the country.

In the early 1990s, there was neither real power sharing nor upward political communication through representative feedback. Real feedback occurred through bureaucratic channels or informal lines of communication. Elected people's regional representative councils (DPRD) at the provincial and district levels had been restored in 1966, after operating as appointive bodies during the period of Guided Democracy. However, the DPRDs' participation in the early 1990s governing was extremely circumscribed because the councils lacked control over the use of resources and official appointments. Even though 1974 legislation gave provincial DPRDs some voice in selecting their governors--DPRDs could recommend appointments from a list of potential candidates submitted by the minister of home affairs--provincial governors were still appointed by the president. District heads were designated by the Department of Home Affairs.

The structure of provincial-level and local government in Indonesia is best understood in terms of the overriding goals of national political integration and political stability. At the governmental level, integration means control by the central government, a policy that was in part conditioned by historical experience. At independence Indonesia consisted of the shortlived federal RUSI (1949-50). The RUSI was viewed as a Dutch plot to deny authority over the entire country to the triumphant Indonesian nationalists. Regional rebellions in the late 1950s confirmed the national government's view that Indonesia's cultural and ethnic diversity required tight central government control to maintain the integrity of the state. Political stability was equated with centralization and instability with decentralization. Civil control was maintained through a hierarchy of the army's territorial commands, each level of which parallelled a political subdivision--from the highest regional command levels down to noncommissioned officers stationed in the desa for "village guidance." Lateral coordination of civilian administration, police, justice, and military affairs was provided at each provincial, district, and subdistrict level by a Regional Security Council (Muspida). The local Muspida was chaired by the regional army commander and did not include the speaker of the local DPRD (see The Armed Forces in the National Life , ch. 5).

Added to the political requirement for centralization in the early 1990s was the economic reality of the unequal endowment of natural resources in the archipelago and the mismatch of population density to resources. The least populated parts of the country were the richest in primary resources. A basic task of the national government was to ensure that the wealth produced by resource exploitation be fairly shared by all Indonesians. This goal meant that, in addition to Jakarta's political control of the national administrative system, the central government also exercised control over local revenues and finances. Thus, the absence of an independent funding base limited autonomy for provincial and local governments.

About 80 percent of total public expenditure in the provinces was disbursed from the national budget controlled by departments and agencies headquartered in Jakarta. Of the 20 percent administered by the provinces, about half came from Inpres (Presidential Instruction) grants for infrastructure and other developmental purposes. Beginning in 1969, the Inpres grant programs at provincial, district, and village levels channeled about 20 percent of the development budget to small-scale projects for local development, with an emphasis on roads, irrigation, schools, and public health. Only about 10 percent of regional government revenue was derived from local taxes and fees.

Whereas once the central government's transfer of wealth from resource-rich provinces to people-rich provinces had been a source of political irritation for the better-endowed regions, by Repelita V (FY 1989-93), the lag in development investment beyond the Java-Sumatra western core was the most troubling. Suharto's 1992 New Year's message to the nation explicitly addressed this problem: "We are also aware," he said, "of the fact that there is a wide gap in the progress achieved by each region in our country, especially between the western and eastern part of the country." In looking to future policy, he added that there would be stepped-up efforts to provide autonomy and decentralization. Such steps, however, would require strengthening the capacity of subnational units financially and administratively, as well as strengthening local participation in the setting of national goals and policies. To some government leaders in the early 1990s, making concessions to economic and cultural claims for autonomy would endanger national unity. Conflicting interests of politics and administration presented special problems in the Special Region of Aceh and Irian Jaya and Timor Timur provinces.

Data as of November 1992

Country Listing

Indonesia Table of Contents