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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     24 October  2011

Indonesia's war on spending?

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Earlier this month, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono "declared war" on excessive state spending, but a budget watchdog said on Sunday that the State Palace was one of the country's worst spenders.

"The president's remarks amount to nothing without real action," Yuna Farhan, secretary general of the Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra), said during a meeting in Jakarta.

"The palace should be the locomotive in driving spending cuts, but in reality it is exactly the opposite."

Yuna said that just about every year, the president tells his cabinet to spend less, and every year the budget increases.

"The State Palace has nine Mercedes-Benz S600s for VVIPs. Why nine? Does the president need a different car for each day of the week?" he said.

In the wake of a damning report from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) that said the state was losing trillions of rupiah in unnecessary expenses, the president vowed to get tough on the spending habits of ministries, regional governments and state-owned enterprises.

"The party is over," presidential adviser Daniel Sparingga said on Oct. 9. "SBY is declaring war on the loss of state funds."

Yudhoyono recently instructed his staff to come up with a plan for more effective and efficient spending, Daniel said.

This month, the BPK told the House of Representatives that it had discovered potential state losses of Rp 26.68 trillion (US$3 billion) in an audit of spending in the first six months of the year.

The agency, in its biannual audit, said it had found 11,430 irregularities, including 3,463 in which the BPK deemed regulations were broken. Those amounted to potential losses of Rp 7.71 trillion.

Yuna said the proposed 2012 state budget showed the president was not serious about getting spending under control, with more money proposed to pay public officials than to alleviate poverty.

"The government is allocating Rp 215.7 trillion to pay 4.7 million public officials," he said. That's compared to the Rp 50 trillion for Indonesia's 31 million poor, he said.

Fitra has also criticized the palace's plans to purchase a private presidential plane, to be called the Indonesian Air Force One, at a reported cost of $58 million. The president now travels on a plane leased from flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

Last year, the group said Yudhoyono spends Rp 893 million a year on his wardrobe, Rp 42 billion on furniture and Rp 60 billion to renovate the State Secretariat building. The palace said Fitra had greatly exaggerated the figures..

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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