Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Combating Corruption with Sandwiches

May 5th, 2009 · No Comments

Indonesia regularly languishes near the bottom of Transparency International‘s corruption index; in the 2008 rankings, the world’s fourth-most populous nation came in tied for 126th, alongside Honduras, Uganda, and Mozambique. With everyone’s hand out when foreign investors come knocking, it’s no wonder that major development deals fall through all the time.

So what’s to be done? One provincial governor has an intriguing grassroots idea:

In an effort to develop integrity among young people, the government of East Kalimantan Province plans to build hundreds of cashier-free “honesty cafes,” Governor Awang Faroek Ishak said on Monday.

Awang said putting ethics concepts taught by teachers and parents into everyday practical use would help to foster a positive mental attitude among children and young people. The proposed cafes, in which customers would use the honor system in paying for drinks and treats, would encourage honest behavior that would eventually curb misconduct and corruption.

“For instance, if they eat three sandwiches, they will be trained to pay for what they consume, though no one is watching. But if they act dishonesty, the moral sanction would come from peers who are honest,” Awang said.

Developing honesty, he said, was critical for developing the nation, particularly in light of humiliating standings in world rankings for corruption.

“If we don’t prevent the corrupted attitude, the future of our nation will be stuck in a rut and we will disgrace ourselves to other countries in the world,” Awang said.

Good luck to the governor. Judging by his experience in the American Hades known as junior high school, Microkhan is deeply skeptical. Then again, we’ve often been surprised by the high compliance rates on mass-transit systems that go by the honor system—though, granted, lots of folks probably buy tickets solely because they’re scared of getting pinched.

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