Jargalsaikhan Dambadarjaa (known as Jargal DeFacto) is an independent economist and media representative of Mongolia. He is the host of Interview DeFacto, a weekly television talk show broadcast on Eagle News, MNB and NTV in Mongolia, featuring distinguished Mongolian and English speaking guests from across the globe. Email: [email protected]
Indonesia and Mongolia are different in many aspects, but there are similarities as well. Unlike Indonesia, Mongolia is sandwiched between Russia and China without access to the sea. We are the 17th largest territory in the world by area and have a population of three million. Indonesia, on the other hand, is ranked 14th in the world by area and is the most populous Muslim-majority nation. The country is made up of approximately 17,000 islands and has 255 million people.
As Indonesia’s economy is based on natural resources and raw materials, it is similar to Mongolia’s. Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil and is a major player in the rubber, cacao, coffee, gold, and coal markets. Another similarity with Mongolia is that if China is buying their raw materials, Indonesia’s economy grows, and vice-versa.
Mongolia and Indonesia both have weak public governance due to deep-seated corruption in society. In a 2015 report on corruption released by Transparency International, Indonesia was ranked 88th in the world with a score of 34, whereas Mongolia scored 39 and was ranked 72nd. Both Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Mongolia’s President Ts.Elbegdorj got elected with promises of fighting corruption, but the duo are the same, in the sense that they both talked the talk, but are not walking the walk. The two presidents both come from ordinary families and are great public speakers.
However, they are not doing the job they promised to do and have minimal influence on their political parties. Indonesia and Mongolia each have an agency with an intimidating name to combat or eradicate corruption. But the corruption cases revealed by these agencies disappear as a result of political trades, while lawmakers hope to fight the agencies and make them go away.
As Mongolia and Indonesia are both strangled by corruption, the benefits of public spending are minimal. Indonesia’s latest example is that their 150 million USD early earthquake warning system failed when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake happened off the western coast of Sumatra. A total of 22 buoys were placed for monitoring purposes after a disastrous earthquake hit Aceh in 2004. However, none of them operated as they should have. In Mongolia, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on reducing air pollution in Ulaanbaatar. Yet, there is almost no outcome, and a large proportion of the money went into the pockets of politicians.
Recently, a secret recording revealed that the Speaker of Indonesia’s parliament (the People’s Consultative Assembly) sought shares of a large foreign mining company in return for influencing President Jokowi and having the company’s license extended. However, the case soon vanished, just like in Mongolia. Mongolia’s former President N.Enkhbayar was arrested on five counts of corruption. Nevertheless, as those five counts kept disappearing one by one, he is now ready to run for public office in the general elections.
In January 2015, President Jokowi announced that Police General Gunawan was about to be appointed Indonesia’s National Police Chief. Three days later, the police detained the Deputy Head of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a corruption case. The request for his arrest was put in by a member of parliament who was in the same political party as President Jokowi. In order to stop the fight between the National Police and the KPK, President Jokowi did nothing more than urge them to prioritize unity and obey the law. As Indonesia’s parliament currently prepares to pass a law that restricts the KPK’s power, the public is showing their discontent by putting up posters reading “Presidenku di mana?” (Where is our president?) everywhere on the street.
Mongolia’s Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) has been investigating senior government officials and MP Kh.Battulga and made some arrests for a corruption case involving the embezzlement of millions of dollars from the public budget allocated for a railroad project. Suddenly, the police announced that the long-unsolved case of former Minister and MP S.Zorig’s murder was going to be solved, and they arrested the late MP’s wife. It looks like politicians will make trades over these two cases and reach a happy ending as the commotion slowly disappears.
The underlying cause is the same in Indonesia and Mongolia. Both countries have ruling political parties that are not able to get rid of corruption and are fighting over power and authority. It is partly evident in the lack of political party support for the two presidents. Indonesia’s media outlets, which have relatively more press freedom than Mongolia’s, are saying that the conflict between Megawati Sukarnoputri, former President and the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (and daughter of Sukarno, who served as President for 38 years) and President Jokowi is not helping the fight against corruption, but hampering it.
Our president, Ts.Elbegdorj, is a fantastic public speaker and promises a brighter future. However, his own political party does not support him. Also, the President seems to start initiatives that are under his control and forgets about them soon after.President Ts.Elbegdorj is not fighting corruption as fiercely as he said he would, and his “glass account” initiative has not been implemented within his own political party. It did not make political party financing transparent.
Furthermore, he still has not succeeded in barring members of parliament from holding ministerial positions in the Cabinet, also known as wearing a “double deel”. His idea to bring back Mongolians who are living abroad has ended up as talk only. If the President had pushed for the necessary changes in the Constitution, it would have been a completely different picture.
Another similarity in Mongolia and Indonesia’s political party governance is that despite the high number of political parties, what those political parties do is essentially indistinguishable. Therefore, no single political party is now able to win the general elections, which results in repeated establishment of coalition governments.
In both countries, the leader of the political party that collects the greatest number of votes is no longer the most powerful person in the country. In Mongolia, the most powerful person, who decides where the public budget goes, is the Prime Minister. But he is not the leader of the ruling party. Similarly, under Indonesia’s presidential system, their President is the most powerful person, yet he is not the leader of his political party. It leads to society being dominated and governed by politics. Subsequently, it weakens the power of the executive branch and turns the focus of politicians onto delivering election promises, rather than strengthening the economy. When the fight against corruption loses pace, the public’s expectation fail to be met. It results in a strong likelihood that the ruling power will be replaced after the next elections.
We can see from the experiences of many countries that when a country has high levels of corruption and a great extent of natural resources, the benefits of development largely go to a powerful few who acquire international loans on behalf of the people, while the poor stays poor for many generations. Mongolians today must closely oversee the misconduct of these political parties, make their financing transparent, and hold the culprits of corruption accountable for their actions. Otherwise, we will end up like one of those countries who have failed to do so.
This article was published at http://jargaldefacto.com/where-is-our-president/ the author has given his permission to syndicate this article to editor of Suarakebebasan.Org