Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Lako ko toe? (Does it work?)
Hestu Prahara

Last modified: 2022-06-03


The demise of Indonesia’s authoritarian New Order regime in 1998 marked a new era of democratisation and decentralised governance. This process was generously supported by international development/aid agencies such as the World Bank which introduced a new development framework known as community-driven development (CDD). Villages in Indonesia became awash with development/aid programmes that allocated resources directly to them and mobilised civil society involvement in development processes. In 2014, after a decade of experience with World Bank CDD interventions, the Indonesian government enacted a new law on village governance, namely Law No. 6/2014, which granted all 74,960 villages in Indonesia relative autonomy and greater resources to design and manage their own development projects. Further, since the enactment of the New Village Law (2015-2021), the government has disbursed 20.67 trillion Rupiah to fund development projects in the villages under a development program called Village Community Development and Empowerment Program (Program Pembangunan dan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Desa or P3MD). Although the government brands the project as ‘community empowerment’, the main products of P3MD are overwhelmingly infrastructures such as village roads (261,877 km), bridges (1,494,804 m), an irrigation system (76,453 units), et cetera.

Within the current arrangement, the role of political actors such as the elected village heads is central in implementation of development projects in the villages. In addition, the Indonesian government has also recruited technical facilitators to assist village governments in the execution of development projects on the ground and to ensure that the mechanism of ‘good’ governance is followed. In a six months period of fieldwork observing village facilitators and village government officials’ activities in Manggarai District, East Nusa Tenggara Province, I witness how the implementation of village development is overwhelmingly centred around technical practices related to the production of inscription/documentation. Inscription based practice is inevitable within the rise of audit culture following the introduction of ‘good’ governance in post-authoritarian Indonesia. Although it is overwhelmingly technical in practice, portraying the implementation of the village development program as merely technocratic is a cruel simplification and, more importantly, leave unnoticed elements beyond the technical that suffuse development practices. Lako ko toe? is a methodological manoeuvre in my attempt to ‘capture’ elements beyond technicality in the ‘performance of good governance’ in Manggarai. In the film, I present two important events that I recorded in early October 2019: a village facilitators’ evaluation meeting and a community meeting regarding the provision of a water reservoir. In both settings, a moral atmosphere envelope and permeate the practice of rendering technical. Through the vantage point of [paid] development workers such as village facilitators, the film unfolds development practices as both rendering technical and a site of moral experience and ethical action.

Keywords: community-driven development, good governance, moral atmosphere

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