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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        26  April 2011

New Indonesian customs head to “clean up”

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Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo has ordered the country’s customs and excise office to improve governance and stamp out corruption that has hampered economic growth and scared away investors.

On Monday, Indonesian Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo Agus ushered in the ministry’s new customs and excise director general, Agung Kuswandono. Agung, who previously served as chief of Tanjung Priok’s customs office, replaced Thomas Sugijata, whose term expires in two months.

“There are no easy tasks at the customs and excise office. There are no compromises on violations at the customs office. What needs to be fixed, please fix it well. Do the job with full dedication,’’ Agus said.

The minister declined to elaborate on why he selected Agung or why the ministry did not wait until Thomas’s term ended to name his replacement.

“Thomas will become a special staff member at the Finance Ministry, preparing for the transition in the customs and excise directorate general at the ministry,” Agus said, adding that he had been monitoring Agung’s performance at Tanjung Priok.

Thomas was installed in his position by Sri Mulyanti Indrawati, the previous finance minister, in January 2010.

Agung studied forestry at the Institut Pertanian Bogor before continuing his education at the University of Colorado in the US. He served as the customs office chief at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport before taking charge of Tanjung Priok, the nation’s busiest port, in 2007.

“I will do all the finance minister has asked me to do. The first thing I will do is enact internal consolidation,” Agung said. He also said he would push to increase customs revenue.

State budget projections for 2011 put total revenue from excise receipts and export and import duties collected by the directorate to increase 5 percent from last year to Rp 86 trillion ($10 billion). The directorate is expected contribute around 8 percent of total state revenue in 2011.

The directorate has been home to shady practices in recent years. Media reports have highlighted rampant graft, including in 2008, when a raid by the Corruption Erradication Comission (KPK) on the Tanjung Priok customs office caught officials with Rp 500 million in bribe money.

It is also embroiled in a case involving Golkar Party legislator Azis Syamsuddin, two customs office employees and two impounded containers of alcohol and BlackBerry smartphones.

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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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