No pay rise for Indonesian civil servants

INDONESIAN civil servants will not get a pay increase despite rising living costs caused by the recent economic downturn.

State Minister for Administrative Reform T.B. Silalahi said it was difficult to justify demands for more pay, given “the distressing domestic situation”.

He was referring to the currency crisis affecting the country, forest fires, famine in Irian Jaya and food shortages in some areas in Sumatra.

“How can they ask for a salary increase while the situation is like this?” he told a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday.

He said: “Look at those people in Irian Jaya experiencing famine. Other parts of the country are also facing the same plight.

“Civil servants are people’s servants. If the people suffer, government officials must also suffer.”

The Indonesian economy, hit by the currency crisis that has seen the rupiah slide 31 per cent against the US dollar, has slowed dramatically over the last few months.

Mr Silalahi also lashed out at officials who spent lavishly on parties in hotels.

He urged them to refrain from such practices, saying that they should take the lead in promoting a simpler lifestyle.

“Those who can’t and keep demanding a pay rise are not civil servants at all and that means that their motivation to be a civil servant was always for money in the first place,” said the retired army lieutenant general.

His comments take place against a backdrop of concern here that a failure to raise salaries would lead to even more corruption among officials.

Complaints about inefficiency and corruption in the Indonesian bureaucracy are widespread.

A government audit of the 1995/1996 fiscal year, for example, pointed to 14,572 cases of irregularities with losses of Rp 532.6 billion (S$254.6 million) to the state treasury.

Observers believe figures could go up if efforts are not made to redress the salaries of officials, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet.

Economist Umar Juoro of the Indonesian Institute for National Development Studies noted: “Corruption will become more rampant as the real incomes of civil servants decline. The situation will get worse because they have to make up for their shortfall.”

The Jakarta Post reported that the last pay increase for civil servants was in May this year when salaries of those in the highest grades rose by an average of 34.4 per cent while lower rank officials saw a 73 per cent rise.

The paper said that the monthly salary of an official in the highest grade of the civil service with 32 years of service was Rp 722,500.

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