Seminar on “Reforming Bureaucracy, Delivering Quality Public Services: An Experience from Indonesia”

In this seminar, Dr Yanuar Nugroho gives an insider perspective into the core of bureaucracy reform in Indonesia during the first period of President Jokowi’s term.


Wednesday, 15 January 2020 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited Dr Yanuar Nugroho for a seminar on reforming the bureaucracy in Indonesia. Dr Nugroho was the Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Analysis and Oversight of strategic issues on social, cultural and ecological affairs at the Executive Office of the President from 2015 to 2019. He is the co-founder and advisor to the Centre for Innovation, Policy and Governance (CIPG), a Jakarta-based think-tank. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, after holding a full-time academic post there.

Dr Yanuar Nugroho gives an insider perspective into the core of bureaucracy reform in Indonesia during the first period of President Jokowi’s term. Dr Siwage Dharma Negara moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Nugroho framed his presentation as a sharing specifically focusing on what President Joko Widodo had intended to do with his bureaucracy over the last five years. One main issue he brought up was geographical inequality; most of the 4.28 million civil servants in Indonesia are concentrated in Java. Other issues he raised in relation to the decentralised government structure and the situation of the bureaucracy of Indonesia were the poor public awareness and involvement, intervention of local politics, as well as weak internal monitoring and law enforcement. In response to these issues, some directives from the president on the bureaucracy reform include ensuring better distribution of state apparatus to increase inclusivity and access to quality public services, and increasing the Government Effectiveness Index (GEI) score of Indonesia.

Dr Nugroho explained that public policy is a government choice to do or not to do; deliberate inaction is also a choice in public policy. In that sense, public policy-making is in reality a messy process, and does not always follow properly conceptualised or defined frameworks. For a bureaucracy to work, he asserted three instrumental factors: 1) the regulatory framework, 2) the institutional setting, which refers to clearly defining the responsibilities of each agency or ministry, and 3) the accountability mechanism, which is regarding how performance should be assessed. Apart from that, he shared his view that Indonesia should do away with unevenness in salary levels across the various ministries and adopt a single salary system, in order to encourage greater mobility between ministries. Another notable opinion which he advanced was the importance of having a standardized and reliable national database, which in his words should ideally be a “single system with multiple platforms”. He concluded his presentation with three key points on why the bureaucracy needs to be reformed: 1) to increase coordination and break the silos in policy-making, 2) to promote an evidence-based public service and policy-making, and 3) to better facilitate the decision-making and implementation process.

The Q&A session that followed saw a lively discussion on several related issues, such as whether there was resistance or other forms of responses during these transitions at the different government scales, and where Indonesia could potentially draw knowledge and inspiration from in attempting to reform its bureaucracy.

The seminar was attended by around 30 participants, comprising mainly academics and policy researchers.

The participants engaged in a lively Q&A session with the speaker. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)