New Indonesian govt calls halt to civil servant recruitment

Cutting back: Candidates participate in a civil-servant recruitment test in Jakarta on Tuesday. The government has announced a plan to limit recruitment based on the needs of each ministry rather than simply hiring on an annual basis.

INDONESIA - In line with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's "mental revolution" campaign slogan, newly inaugurated Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Yuddy Chrisnandi announced on Tuesday that the government was planning a moratorium on civil-service recruitment.

The Hanura Party politician said the moratorium would improve the administration's effectiveness and avoid wasteful spending.

"[Vice President Jusuf Kalla] asked us to impose a moratorium on civil servants," he said on the sidelines of the hand over ceremony from his predecessor Azwar Abubakar at the ministry's office in Senayan, Central Jakarta.

The moratorium will be in effect for the next five years, according to Yuddy, but does not mean there will be absolutely no new recruitment of civil servants during Jokowi's term of office - rather a suspension of recruitment for ministries that already had enough civil servants.

A ministry would be unable to recruit staff without a prior organizational audit, said Yuddy.

He was referring to the audit ordered by President Jokowi of all ministries in his Cabinet to identify problems and inefficiencies within the organisations.

"[Each minister should assess] what is working, what is not working, and focus on serving the people," Jokowi said as he opened his first Cabinet meeting in the State Palace on Monday.

He also instructed Yuddy to monitor the auditing. "If possible, simplify the organisation so that [we can] work more effectively and efficiently," Jokowi said.

Yuddy described the moratorium on civil-servant recruitment as analogous to the moratorium on issuing new forest-clearing licences in 2011.

"It's the same with the forest moratorium. If the forest is still good, then don't cut it down," he said.

In a bid to further boost the efficiency of the national bureaucracy, the ministry is also studying the ideal ratio of civil servants in relation to the population, according to Yuddy.

"We have 250 million people, so how many civil servants do we really need?" he said of the initial task given to each ministry.

According to data from the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry, the number of civil servants in the country had increased by 22.47 per cent since 2003, reaching 4.46 million civil servants in 2013.

The rise in the number of civil servants has been cited as the cause of the ballooning state budget allocated for civil servants' salaries.

Data from state-budget watchdog the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) shows an increase of Rp 43.6 trillion (S$4.4 billion) in spending on civil servants' salaries in the 2014 state budget from the previous year's budget.

The figure is higher than the increase in the state budget allocation for development from 2013 to 2014, which was only Rp 13.2 trillion.

FITRA coordinator Uchok Sky Khadafi said on Tuesday that the moratorium was needed to trim the budget.

"It could free up funds for civil servants as well as their benefits and much better state facilities," he told The Jakarta Post. "Instead of recruiting new civil servants, which wastes money for their training programs and so on, it's better to use long-established staff."

Uchok added that the current number of civil servants was already too high and more than what the country needed.

"They're concentrated in 'wet' [well-funded] regions and not in remote areas. This is because the ministry doesn't have an agency to count the their numbers, capacities, education and where they are located," he said.

"The data [on civil servants] is not complete. This is what the ministry has to work on," Uchok added.