Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

Jakarta's ex-governor Ahok criticises state-owned firms in Indonesia

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has lambasted bad bureaucracy, rent-seeking and systematic inefficiency in Indonesia’s state-owned companies.

Speaking on YouTube channel Poin, which has more than 1 million subscribers, Mr Basuki, who is popularly known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, expressed his frustration with the management of state-owned oil company Pertamina for using loans to buy overseas oil fields while ignoring prospective businesses domestically.

He also alleged that another state company was trying to engage in rent-seeking.

Mr Basuki, a political ally of President Joko Widodo, serves as the chief of Pertamina’s board of commissioners, whose job is to supervise the board of directors. He is also a member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

Pertamina is among 140 companies that come under the State-Owned Enterprise Ministry.

Mr Basuki said Indonesia should establish a super holding company for state-controlled firms, like Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

“The State-Owned Enterprise Ministry should be disbanded… and we (should) instead have Indonesia Incorporation, like (Singapore has) Temasek,” Mr Basuki said in the 61/2-minute YouTube video uploaded last Monday.

He also singled out another state-owned company that tried to charge Pertamina a 500-billion rupiah (S$45 million) fee for a “going-into-a-paperless-office project”.

Pertamina’s management, Mr Basuki said, had unduly ignored offers by private investors to work together to build oil refineries, which Indonesia badly needs in order to cut its dependency on fuel imports.

He also said Pertamina could have tapped into at least 12 potential oil blocks for exploration domestically rather than venturing overseas and buying foreign assets.

Building refineries is a programme Mr Joko wishes Pertamina to undertake expeditiously.

Mr Basuki took issue as well with the fact that underperforming Pertamina senior officials were sacked from their respective posts but continued to receive the same fat salaries merely on grounds of seniority.

Mr Basuki, an ethnic Chinese who is a Christian, had been accused of blasphemy by political opponents, after he made a speech in September 2016 that referred to a Quranic verse. He was convicted and later sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy in 2017.

After he was released from prison, Mr Basuki was appointed by Mr Joko to the position of chief commissioner of Pertamina, one of the country’s most strategic state companies that had been often plagued by inefficiency and corruption.

The YouTube video posted last week has garnered 1.2 million views. In it, Mr Basuki said that those resisting him are wrongly accusing him of creating disharmony and chaos in Pertamina, in an effort to unseat him.

Responding to Mr Basuki’s video, Pertamina’s spokesman Fajriyah Usman told the news portal that the company respects the statement made by Mr Basuki, whose job is to supervise the firm’s management.

Ms Usman added that the company is undergoing internal restructuring for improvement.

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