Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Corruption and nepotism remain intrinsic to Indonesia's political, social and economic life. As the country marks 67 years of independence, it is still shackled by the legacy of the Suharto regime (1967-1998). Since then, not much has changed. Under current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is in his second mandate (2009-2014), little has been done to tackle the nation's historic evils, namely endemic and systematic nepotism and corruption. In fact, some of the "president's men" in the Democratic Party have been caught in cases of corruption, abuse of office and shady deals.
Although it would take Indonesia five years before joining the United Nations, nationalist leader Sukarno proclaimed the country's independence on 17 August 1945. Today also provides an opportunity to look at the record of the current administration and the problems that burden the country's development.
One of the first things that stand out is the involvement of some key figures from the ruling party in major corruption cases, people like Hartati Murdaya Poo, a powerful figure who bankrolled the Democratic Party and President Yudhoyono's two successful presidential campaigns. A key player in Walubi, the Indonesian Buddhist Association, which has chaired for many years, she has been investigated several times for embezzlement.
Another important problem in Indonesia, especially for the economy, is red tape in the public sector, which discourages foreign investments.
"We must cut red tape," President Yudhoyono said, but for many of his countrymen that sounds hollow rather than a real pledge or opportunity for development.
Although the president said that the time it takes foreign companies to get a licence "dropped from 60 to 17 days," critics note that permits still need bribes or other favours to be obtained expeditiously.
Last but not least, religious freedom remains another crucial problem, as minorities continue to endure abuses if not outright acts of violence, which effectively curtail and sometimes deny their right to freedom of worship.
The fate of the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Bogor is a case in point. Used by thousands of worshippers each Sunday, it has been sealed off by local authorities on alleged irregularities in its building permits, a situation that has left the central government unmoved.