Politics of free public services in decentralised Indonesia

Since Indonesia’s central government decentralised many of its functions in 2001, a few district governments have developed well-funded free basic education and health programmes. Yet other districts have done little to support free service provision. Why the difference?

District heads’ strategies for maintaining and advancing their political careers are perhaps the biggest influence. This study shows that some district heads, ‘political entrepreneurs’, have developed a popular base among the poor and become dependent on their electoral support. In these districts, free public services are more likely than where district heads have focused on developing patronage networks.

This research suggests that, rather than depending largely on funding and management, the provision of free public services is primarily a matter of politics. The study notes the importance of broadening the scope for political entrepreneurship at the local level.


Researcher: Andrew Rosser, Ian Wilson & Priyambudi Sulistiyanto

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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