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12 Apr 2016

Decentralization and Development Planning in Indonesia: A Case Study of Two Districts in Lombok

Rasita Purba, April 2013
Monash University

This thesis is a critical analysis of the contemporary development planning system in Indonesia, institutionalized in parallel with democratization and decentralization policies. It examines to what extent local development planning exhibits practices of good governance, through its features of transparency, responsiveness, accountability and inclusive-participative procedures. The central research question is to what extent does decentralization promote good governance in development planning?

Scholars have investigated decentralization outcomes in Indonesia from various angles, portraying both scepticism and optimism. This study contributes to understanding about how local government in Indonesia uses its new powers within a broader context of democratization, in an area which has received less attention, i.e. development planning. This includes understanding about how participative, pro-poor and gender-sensitive policies, the contemporary vocabulary of Indonesian politics, are put into practice in instituting development planning, in particular for the education sector.

In this thesis the practices of development planning are investigated in two districts in Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB) province, i.e. Central and West Lombok. The research involved a critical review of development planning policies, interviews with government officials at the national, provincial and district levels, project/donor funding agency staff, and members of local NGOs, and observations of Musrenbang, the multi-stakeholder forum for development planning at the village and supra-village levels.

The contemporary regulations for development planning build a foundation for more transparent and responsive practices, and require governments to be accountable to their local constituents. Public engagement is a core value, obligating governments to consult the public through all phases in designing development plans.

In general the research findings demonstrate complex relations between democratic political institutions, devolved power and the realities of political practice. Planning procedures in the two districts showed unprecedented transparency, as required by regulations: program planning along with the budget was exposed to the public, through local media and during the sessions of Musrenbang. Another obvious sign of progress is the involvement of the public, which contrasts with the previous practice which was restricted to the elites. Women‟s involvement was also more obvious than before, although this was not the case for the poor. Participants played active roles in Musrenbang, asking questions, demanding modifications or posing criticism, although this varied across areas.

However, the participative process was characterized by less than satisfactory practical and strategic preconditions, which compromised the quality of the process. The development planning process cannot be dissociated from the dynamics of local politics, which in Lombok have politicized government institutions and had unexpected implications for how decisions on development programs were made.

Overall, this study concludes that there has not been much progress towards good governance in development planning in the two districts observed. Judging from this example, decentralization is important but insufficient in establishing good local governance for development planning. Political will from local bodies is essential, and it was lacking in these two districts of Lombok. Although so far it is under-utilised, an invited space like Musrenbang can be an important entry point for both the officials and the public to engage in critical collaboration in development planning.

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