Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Wake Up Call from SBY

A wise person once mentioned that it’s better if we don’t hate or love excessively because those whom we love today could be the one we hate tomorrow and vice versa.

I don’t love nor hate SBY. I just don’t like him. The reason for my dislike wasn’t even personal. It was his military background. I believe that since this country was run by military people most of the mistakes made in the past were their responsibilities. But it’s going to be very difficult to bring those people to justice if the President is their comrade.

I know some people who really hate SBY’s style and policies. I just don’t care. I’m only curious to see whether he will run for the second time, as he mentioned once during his campaign that once is enough.

I told a friend that although I don’t like him, if he raises the salary of the civil servants to Rp 5,000,000 (less than $ 600) I’ll vote for him and do his campaign freely. I’m convinced that SBY will never be able do that. It takes a very tough and corruption free oriented President to raise the civil servants’ salary to that level.

To cleanse this country of corruption, the government must clean its employees first. The main reason which is often used as a justification for bad public services is low salary. Based on personal experience with people from the Ministry of Finance who got exorbitant income I disagree with this assumption, but it does have a merit. Low salary is one of the factors which has caused bad services and lack of enthusiasm to give a good performance.

Good governance could be started with the improvement of the salary of the civil servants. I really hate government’s excuses when they refuse to raise civil servants’ salary. The standardize excuse was that the government doesn’t have enough money at the moment. Ordinary people might buy that one. But we government employees know better.

There’s money a plenty. Money which goes to the pockets of small percentage of fortunate government employees – instead of being use to increase the salary of every lowly level employee who had the bad luck not being placed in the ‘lucrative’ Ministries or positions. Those lucky people could earn at least from 5 – 10 times of the average salary of the average civil servants.

I don’t mind if some people are making more than other based on their qualification and job specification. But to let a few people enjoy that kind of income simply because they are lucky enough to be there is unreasonable. To let that kind of practice continue is unfair and irresponsible. To let people’s money being used and taken like that is tantamount to corruption.

And there is something else which is conveniently forgotten by the government when they raised the salary and benefit for some people in selective Ministries: the fact that the living costs are the same for everyone! No matter who you are, regardless of your Ministries or positions, everyone needs to have a decent salary which could cover the standard basic living costs.

Will SBY be able to handle this problem? I doubt it. It takes a revolutionary approach to cleanse a systematic corruption in the government bodies. A band aid is not going to help.
Despite his military background SBY is very soft. To me he looks like he is afraid of creating displeasure and discontentment.

Just the other day, I told a friend that one of the qualities needed to be had by a leader is a readiness to be hate by others. When a necessary policy is needed to be implemented for the greater good of the people he must have the courage to offend and be on the opposite side of those few who’ll stand to lose if it was implemented.

A leader needs to have courage to correct a wrong when he sees it. I don’t think SBY has it. Until last night.

I was stunned. I was amazed. And quite suddenly my opinion of him changed. It improved significantly. It was like love at the first sight. I’m not saying that I love him all of a sudden. But I do start to like him. I started to see there’s hope for him after all.

What he did might not seem incredible or extraordinary for foreigners. But for us Indonesians or even Asians, it was a very great deal. What did he do?

He chastised one of the attendees in his meeting for sleeping. He also ordered him out by saying that it’s highly inappropriate for government employees to fall asleep in the middle of the discussion to better the lot of their people. Marvelous!

I often saw that some people were closing their eyes during a meeting – perhaps as a sign of boredom – and some even pretending to be sleeping regardless of the number of attendees, regardless of the fact that they were sitting in the front row. And no body dares to say anything. Not even the chairman.

It’s not an easy task to talk directly to people about their mistakes. It’s hard to point it out to them why what they’re doing is wrong. It’s even harder to punish them for what is already accepted as a norm.

My highest respect and admiration for SBY for doing what he did. I hope that he will be able to extend that kind of approach to other areas as well. This country is in desperate need for someone who could wake it up and shake it off of its bad habits if it wants to catch up with its neighbours.
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