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Indonesia VP says war on graft scaring bureaucracy

Written by: Staff

JAKARTA, Dec 5 (Reuters) Indonesia's civil service is grinding to a halt because the country's anti-corruption drive has left officials too scared to act, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said today.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who took office two years ago, has launched a high-profile anti-graft drive in the country, which experts have consistently rated as among the world's most corrupt.

As part of the efforts, he has energised the anti-graft commission, popularly known as KPK, and stepped up prosecution of top government officials and business executives.

''KPK's moves are good but they have their consequences which produce the same outcome -- things become slow. People are now scared to make decisions,'' Kalla was quoted by state news agency Antara as saying.

''We are all for the anti-corruption movement but please do not spark extraordinary fear.'' Kalla cited the example of a government utility agency reluctant to buy badly needed heavy equipment that had resulted in poor services.

Economists and foreign executives often cite widespread corruption as a leading factor hurting Indonesia's attempt to attract much-needed investment as it struggles to attain the high growth rates seen before the late 1990s.

The latest survey of perceived corruption by watchdog Transparency International in 163 nations puts Indonesia at 130th place, alongside countries such as Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe. The lower down the list, the more corrupt the country is perceived.

Transparency International's Indonesia branch also said in a statement last month that educated professionals working in the business sector are guilty of ''closing their eyes to the existence of corrupt practices in their workplace''.

Kalla said one reason for corruption was the slow bureaucracy and suggested that all government tenders should be made public.

''Why do businessmen bribe bureaucrats? What they are paying for is actually time. This is a bureaucratic problem. The system needs a fix,'' Kalla said.

''In the purchase or provision of items, the government needs to decide all tenders are on the newspapers. (Then) I believe corruption would drop and the prices of items could drastically come down.'' REUTERS SHB BD1351

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