Confronting Corruption in Indonesia

Addressing Corruption in Post-Soeharto Indonesia: The Role of the Corruption Eradication Commission” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1552983) is a new article available at the website of JCA’s publishers. It is authored by Ahmad Khoirul Umam of the Faculty of Philosophy and Civilization, University of Paramadina in Indonesia and the School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland in Australia, with co-authors Gillian Whitehouse, Brian Head and Mohammed Adil Khan, all from the School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland.

The abstract for the article states:

Anti-corruption became one of the top priorities in post-Soeharto Indonesia, with democratisation, market liberalisation and institutional anti-corruption frameworks pursued as means to enhance transparency and accountability in public governance. A core component of these efforts was the establishment of a powerful anti-corruption agency, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This article assesses the effectiveness of the KPK, using evidence from two contrasting cases to identify factors that facilitated or impeded its ability to successfully investigate, prosecute and thus contain high-level corruption. The analysis highlights the threats to the KPK posed by resilient networks that were able to reconsolidate and resist anti-corruption efforts in post-Soeharto Indonesia. However, it also identifies countervailing social forces that emerged in the context of democratisation – in particular, an active civil society and a largely free press. While these supportive pressures from civil society could not fully counter the attacks on the KPK, they were able to prevent its marginalisation in the two major cases examined. Overall the KPK’s success in addressing high-level corruption is shown to be dependent on the interaction of political dynamics, interests and power relations, with no guarantee that anti-corruption forces will prevail in future cases.

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Rubber and Precarity in Northern Laos and Northern Myanmar

A second article in a special issue on Precarity in Asia has been published. “Precarity and Vulnerability: Rubber Plantations in Northern Laos and Northern Shan State, Myanmar” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1554161) is authored by Kyoko Kusakabe of Gender and Development Studies, Department of Development and Sustainability at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand and Aye Chan Myae of Advancing Life and Regenerating Motherland (ALARM) in Yangon, Myanmar.

Rubber plantation, Lashio, Myanmar

The abstract states:

In northern Laos and Northern Shan State in Myanmar, there has occurred a rapid expansion of rubber plantations, both by large economic concessions and by smallholder farmers. The impact of the introduction of rubber differs by place. This article analyses the impact of the introduction of rubber in two villages in Northern Shan State and two in Luang Namtha Province, Lao PDR. We differentiate vulnerability and precarity while assessing the changes that women and men have experienced, which allows us to problematise the long-term vulnerability of seemingly well-adapted farming households. We argue that the strategies that farmers have chosen to improve their situation today will lead to unsustainable livelihoods in the long term. We also link the analysis of vulnerability and precarity to changes in household gender relations. Notwithstanding increased precarity, rising household cash incomes and external support have improved women’s position in some places while hardly affecting gender relations in others.

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Penang’s networks

In a new book review at JCA, co-editor Geoffrey C. Gunn of the Centre for Macau Studies at the University of Macau, looks at Penang and Its Networks of Knowledge, edited by Peter Zabielskis, Yeoh Seng Guan and Kat Fatland and published by Areca Books.

Gunn argues that unlike the hyper-developed Singapore, its colonial twin Penang “has remained far truer to its early post-colonial origins until recent times.” He praises principal editor Peter Zabielskis and his colleagues and sponsors for having “assembled contributions from a stellar group of Malay world specialists” to look at Penang. In the book there are chapters by: Barbara Watson Andaya, Anthony Reid, Jean DeBernardi, Annabel Teh Gallop, Christina Skott, Geoff Wade, Anoma Pieris, Khoo Salma Nasution, Su Lin Lewis, Judith Nagata and Peter Zabielskis.

Gunn concludes that these chapters make a book that is:

practically indispensable to any researcher on Penang and anyone with an interest in the early role of print media and missionary activity in the circulation of knowledge, the rise and florescence of diasporic communities, colonial control, community agency as with the wafq examples, early modernities and much more.

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Social Movements, Counter-expertise and Spraying Plantations in the Philippines

The Politics of Counter-Expertise on Aerial Spraying: Social Movements Denouncing Pesticide Risk Governance in the Philippines” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1551962) has just been made available as an open access article.

Lisette Nikol

This article is authored by Lisette J. Nikol of Rural Sociology and Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, Department of Social Sciences at Wageningen University in The Netherlands and Kees Jansen of Rural Sociology, Wageningen University.

The abstract for the article states:

Kees Jansen

In various places in the world, aerial spraying of pesticides has met with resistance from local communities potentially endangered by toxic pesticide drift. Social movements, and the counter-expertise that they mobilise, often trigger changes in state regulations of the practice. This article describes such struggles over risk regulation in the Philippines, where aerial spraying is common in large monoculture banana plantations. It has provoked local activism contesting the socio-economic power of landed and business elites and has challenged the government’s approach to managing pesticide risks. This article develops the argument that different types of counter-expertise must be recognised. The case shows that it can be difficult for movements to articulate these different types of counter-expertise. Furthermore, the weak state characteristics of the Philippine state has shaped the ambiguous responses of risk governance to multiple actors’ divergent knowledge claims. The result is a legal impasse in which civil society has successfully pushed the issue of aerial spraying onto the national political arena, but the state has as yet been unable to develop a comprehensive pesticide risk regulation independent of powerful business interests.

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Suitcase Trading in the Pearl River Delta

A fifth article for a forthcoming special issue on Checkpoint Politics in Cross-border Exchanges is now available at the publisher’s site for JCA.

Eva Hung

By the special issue’s guest editors Eva P. W. Hung of the Department of Social Science, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong and Tak-Wing Ngo of the Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Macau, Macau, “Organised Informality and Suitcase Trading in the Pearl River Delta Region” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1546888) discusses the extensive cross-border trading on China’s borders with its Special Administrative Regions.

The abstract for the paper states:

Tak-Wing Ngo

Suitcase trade is a common activity along state borders in Asia. Existing scholarship has often viewed such suitcase trade as locally embedded activities characterised by informality. This article contends that this perception underestimates the diversity and complexity of suitcase trade. This is illustrated with a case study of the Pearl River Delta region of southern China, where thousands of suitcase traders carry goods across the borders between mainland China and its two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao. Several patterns of operation run in parallel, ranging from petty traders working alone to highly-organised group operators. While each individual transaction is small scale and based on informal networks, the entire chain of operations is run by syndicates that are highly organised, commercial, with well-defined divisions of labour, and on a large scale. We describe such a combination of organisational competence and informal networks as “organised informality.” The concept allows us to expand the analytical horizon to cover those cross-border exchanges that incorporate modern commercial practices in otherwise non-formal settings. It also bridges the oft-criticised dichotomies of formal-informal and licit-illicit.

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Shadow Economies, State and Trade on the Cambodia-Vietnam Frontier

Shadow Economies and the State: A Comparison of Cassava and Timber Networks on the Cambodia-Vietnam Frontier” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1545917) is a new article by
Sango Mahanty of the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University in Canberra.

This is a fourth article in a forthcoming special issue on Checkpoint Politics in Cross-border Exchanges is now available at the publisher’s site for JCA.

Its abstract states:

This article extends understandings of “shadow economies” – networked, economic exchanges outside formal state regulation – and specifically how they are socially, economically and politically nested within frontier landscapes. The article analyses two related commodities that are often cast differently upon the legality spectrum: timber and cassava. By comparing the actors, relationships and practices that facilitate timber and cassava trade across the Cambodia-Vietnam border, two significant points of connection are identified: border checkpoints and land transactions, both through state actors. The analysis therefore exposes the systemic role of state actors in shadow economies and broader processes of frontier commodification, supported by their regulatory mandate. Methodologically, the study illustrates how examining relationships between commodities can help to illuminate the mechanisms, relationships and ambiguities of shadow economies operating in resource frontiers in border areas.

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Labour Market Reform in Japan

Jiyeoun Song of the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University, South Korea is the author of a new article, “Japan’s Contested Labour Market Reform” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1540720).

The article’s abstract states:

Over the past few decades, Japan’s labour market has faced substantial changes, represented by flexibility, an increase in the proportion of the non-regular workforce and rising inequality. Under the intense pressure of fluctuating business environments and protracted recession, Japan’s policy-makers have sought to resuscitate the troubled economy by further liberalising the relationship between capital and labour while also seeking to reduce widening inequality by providing social safety nets and protection for workers. This article examines the government’s labour market reforms since the late 2000s in response to these challenges. It argues that patterns of policy-making – centralised versus decentralised – have determined the political dynamics of labour market reform. More specifically, three aspects of decision-making – the role of the centralised policy-making agency, party-cabinet relations and legislative control in Diet – have explained the scope of the reform, although the reform target along the lines of employment status has affected the political process and outcome to some extent.

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