This paper will critically examine both Morishita’s and Booth’s articles. Morishita’s article examines the relationship between the shape of local politics in the decentralization era and the resources found in a particular area. Booth on the other hand examines the role of the central government in charting out economic and policy decisions in the decentralization era.
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Both articles concentrate on analyzing a feature of the post- Soeharto era. They both seem to analyze the performance of the government and developments within the political landscape after this historically significant change in the Indonesian government. Additionally, both articles recognize corruption as a major feature of Indonesian life and pay considerable attention to its effect.
The articles are written for an academic audience that is intent on understanding different features of the country, with respect to the change of the governing system. The audience is assumed not to have expert knowledge in the history of the country since they both give a lot of historical data in introducing and proving their respective thesis.
This means that the audience need not be experts in the field of Indonesian economics and history. The academic fields covered would be economics, political science and other social sciences. The themes covered in these papers are politics, corruption, decentralization and economics. The major difference, though, exists in the tone of the papers.
Booth takes on a hopeful tone, showing the positive progress made in planning by the new administrations. She gives a largely positive review of the progress; though there is still some realistic criticism in the paper. Morishita on the other hand has a critical tone; the paper has an underlying feel of criticism and cynicism that the game rules may have changed but the players have not.
As stated before, Booth’s paper examines the role of central government in planning. She asserts that the new decentralization system has changed the role of the government in planning, giving the regional governments more power and autonomy (Booth, 2005, p. 198). This assertion forms the basis of her paper.
They are well discussed, providing the reader with a clear understanding of how and why the change has happened. It also provides in detail the challenges of decentralization that this system faces. Her discussion is specific to Indonesia, citing examples and documented data, which keeps the arguments impressively in context. In order to adequately discuss this,
Booth has used various methods to pass her point across. Most notably, she uses a chronological arrangement for her sub-topics. This allows the reader to follow the argument in a time format. The paper is discusses economic matters, and is thus littered with a lot of numerical data. In order to summarize it, she uses tables. This helps especially with comparative arguments as it is easy to see trends when they are put in tabular format.
Additionally, she frequently cites other sources, a trait that validates the authenticity of the data and arguments she puts forward. However, the data she uses is notably secondary data; and despite the dexterity in handling the data, it gives it a distancing feel. The paper’s central thesis is more theoretical than practical. She asserts that the decentralization will lead to greater accountability to the electorate and autonomy from the central government (Booth, 2005, p. 217).
She does not take into account other political factors in play, and the extent to which corruption is embedded in the country’s culture. In my opinion, this is a failure due to the sources that she used in research. She utilized quite a few government sources, which are well known to provide biased data. However, this is does not mean that she does not do a realistic analysis of the data.
The author gives an honest opinion of the challenges faced in planning due to decentralization, and gives a less than stellar review on the how realistic the planning process is. In fact, she states that the process is more of wishful thinking than true planning (Booth, 2005, p. 206-207).
Morishita on the other hand examines the new power games in play after the decentralization and their relationship with the resources found in a region. His thesis is that central government influence in local politics is more in regions with vast economic resources like oil (Morishita, 2008, p. 82). This is opposed to regions that have less important economic resources, like forests.
His basis his premise on two case studies of neighboring provinces, each with different economic resources. He traces out, with a lot of historical referencing, the influences of central government politicians on local politicians and the effect of the influences on their political careers. He then uses this information to base his conclusion. His use of history to trace the careers and influences of local politicians is impressive. It shows adequate research was done.
The author has used different tools to put his arguments forward. He has few diagrams, two to be exact. The diagrams are all maps. The maps are used to show the areas that have the resources that the paper is discussing. One can argue that the paper does not need to have tables and graphs since it is basically dealing in historical data.
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However, using tables and figures helps summarize data, a welcome strategy in any paper that has a lot of information being discussed, such as this paper. This being a historical paper, he might have incorporated a timeline diagram to aid in summarizing the data.
His main thesis is mainly argued out in the form a historical account. He demonstrates detailed knowledge of local events and politicians, a trait that impresses on the reader that the author knows what he is saying. However, that is the only strength in the paper. The fact that he uses only two provinces to create a blanket conclusion for the rest of the country is not very convincing. The argument should have covered at least three provinces or more in order to come to a more authoritative conclusion.
In general, both papers have a central thesis they prove throughout the paper. They both follow their thesis through, though with different styles. One can argue that the difference in the style of presentation stems from the fact that they have different contents that they are discussing: one is economic and the other more social in nature.
However, there seems to be a collision of facts or sentiments. Booth’s paper, especially the introduction and toward the conclusion, give the notion that decentralization was beneficial to restructuring the political scenario.
Booth (2005, p. 217) claims that it would lead to greater accountability and direct repercussions in the ballot box for errant local governments. Additionally, the central government would not have as much control as it once did over the local governments due to divulging of guaranteed funds (Booth, 2005, p. 217). However, Morishita seems to be reading from a different script. He states that the central government still exerts control over the local politics, albeit through questionable means (Morishita, 2008, p. 84).
He also claims that local politics are not molded by accountability of the leadership but rather wealth and political connections of the local politicians (Morishita, 2008, p. 84 ). According to him, the same personalities that existed over the Soeharto era are the same players in the game. The system may have changed, but the players and the corrupt game plan has not.
The truth is that Morishita is right, corruption and back handed dealing has not been removed through decentralization (Rinaldi et. al., 2007, 5). This is very interesting. How would two papers have different sentiments on the same issue? In my opinion, Booth looks at the system from a theoretical and potential point of view while Morishita examines it from a practical and historical viewpoint. However, they both concur that corruption is an issue in this culture.
I think the papers are highly enlightening. They both have convincing arguments with respect to the area of study they have chosen. However, I would rate Morishita’s paper higher and more convincing as opposed to Booth’s. I personally find Morishita’s account captivating and more reliable.
Additionally, he has chosen an interesting study area. Booth’s paper also is enlightening, especially where she highlights the economic effect of decentralization. She traces out the development of policy, while feeding us details on the influencing forces that caused the policy change. I found this organized approach quite impressive. What still surprises me is why they would have a difference in the effect of decentralization on corruption.
Booth, A., 2005. The evolving role of the central government in economic planning and policy making in Indonesia. Bulletin of Indonesian Studies, 41(2), 197-219.
Morishita, A., 2008. Contesting Power In Indonesia’s Resource-Rich Regions In The Era Of Decentralization: New Strategy For Central Control Over The Regions. Indonesia, 86, 81-108.
Rinaldi, T., Purnomo, M. & Damayanti, D., 2007. Fighting Corruption in Decentralized Indonesia: Case Studies on Handling Local Government Corruption. Web.