The politics of local government environmental evaluations: Assessing bureaucracy in post-Reformasi Indonesia

  • Laila Alfirdaus Universitas Diponegoro, Indonesia
  • S. Rouli Manalu Universitas Diponegoro, Semarang, Indonesia
Keywords: bureaucracy, case studies, environment, environmental communication, environmental evaluations, Indonesia, local government, natural resources, public policy, Reformasi


This article argues that bureaucracy plays politics in Indonesia, not only during the electoral periods, but also in public service. Using the case of environmental evaluation in local government, where natural resources comprise most of the local economy, this article discusses the politics of bureaucracy in undergoing daily governing processes. The environment and natural resource businesses are two opposing fields. Environmental evaluation becomes a contentious area and is usually highly political. This article identifies the bureaucracy’s politicisation in environmental evaluation as occuring in at least in two forms—in measurement and in project implementation. In terms of measurement, bureaucracy tends to use minimum standards, while in project implementation, there are some occasions where bureaucracy tends to sub-contract the work to the third party, usually NGOs, especially in relations to sensitive issues, so that it is politically safer for them, once the result is not as pleasing as expected. This article uses some cases in Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Central Java, and Bangka Belitung, and applied case study as research approach.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

S. Rouli Manalu, Universitas Diponegoro, Semarang, Indonesia

S. Rouli Manalu is a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies, Universitas Diponegoro, Semarang, Indonesia. She has a specialisation in online journalism and the political economy of the media.


Ahn, M. J. & Bretschneider, S. (2011). Politics of e-government: E-government and the political control of bureaucracy. Public Administration Review, 71(3), 414-424. DOI:

Antara News (2018).

Ardianto, H. T., Alfirdaus, L. K., Manalu, S.R., & Kushandajani, K. (2019). Ecological destruction in Indonesia: Reflecting on the experience of East Kalimantan and Bangka Belitung. Paper presented at the International Conference on Indonesian Social and Political Enquiries, Universitas Diponegoro, 21-22 October 2019.

Bersihkan Indonesia (2020). Untouchable: The vulnerability of reclamation and post-mining guarantees to corruption. Jakarta, Indonesia: Auruga Nusantara.

Balla, S. J. (1998). Administrative procedures and political control of the bureaucracy. The American Political Science Review, 92(3), 663-673. DOI:

Bartl, W., Papilloud, C., & Terracher-Lipinski, A. (2019). Governing by numbers: Key indicators and the politics of expectations. An introduction. Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung, 44(2), 7-43.

Berenschot, W. (2018). Incumbent bureaucrats: Why elections undermine civil service reform in Indonesia. Public Administration Development, 38, 135–143 DOI:

Borneo News (2019).

Bucchi, M. (2009). Beyond technocracy science, politics and citizens. London, UK: Springer. DOI:

Busse, Matthias &Gröning, S (2013). The resource curse revisited: Governance and natural resources. Public Choice, 154(1/2), 1-20. DOI:

Chan, H. S. (2010). Envisioning public administration as a scholarly field in 2020: The quest for meritocracy in the Chinese bureaucracy. Public Administration Review, 70, S302-S303 DOI:

Cheung, C. & Leung, K. (2008). Retrospective and prospective evaluations of environmental quality under urban renewal as determinants of residents. Subjective Quality of Life: Social Indicators Research, 85(2), 223-241.

Delabre, I. & Okereke, C. (2019). Palm oil, power, and participation: The political ecology of social impact assessment. Nature and Space, 1–21. DOI:

Demir, FH. (2017). Depolitization of bureaucracy: The case of central and eastern European countries. International Journal of Public Administration, 40(1), 54-64. doi: 10.1080/01900692.2015.1072556. DOI:

Diprose, R., McRae, D., & Hadiz, V. R. (2019). Two decades of reformasi in Indonesia: Its illiberal turn. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 49(5), 691-712. doi: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1637922 DOI:

Edwards, S. A., & Heiduk, F. (2015). Hazy days: Forest fires and the politics of environmental security in Indonesia. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 34(3), 65–94. DOI:

Enggarani, N.S., & Spaltani, B. G. (2019). Disorder of law as alternative enforcement of environmental law: Rembang public law-suit against PT. Semen Indonesia TBK case study. Humanities and Social Sciences Reviews, 7(3), 80-86.

Erwana, F., Dewi, K., & Rahardyan, B. (2015). Study of socio-economics and environment impacts of unconventional tin mining: A case study of Bangka Barat district of Bangka Belitung province. Paper presented at the Third Joint Seminar of Japan and Indonesia Environmental Sustainability and Disaster Prevention (3rd ESDP-2015), Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia, 25 November 2015.

Esmark, A. (2020). The new technocracy. Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. DOI:

Environmental Investigation Agency (2012). Menguji hukum: Karbon, tindak kriminal dan kekebalan hukum di sektor perkebunan Indonesia.

Fruh, E. G., Schmidt, P. S., Maguire Jr., & Hubbs, C. (1976). Baseline environmental evaluations at

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) 2014. Factsheet Kalimantan Timur. [Online]. Retrieved from

Fruh, E. G., Schmidt, P. S., Maguire Jr., B. & Hubbs, C. (1976). Baseline environmental evaluations at power plant sites. Energy Considerations: Journal of American Water Works Association, 68(7), 375-384 DOI:

Fukuoka, Y. (2012). Politics, business and the state in post-Soeharto Indonesia. Contemporary Southeast Asia, 34(1), 80- 100 DOI:

Furlong, S. R. (1998). Political influence on the bureaucracy: The bureaucracy speaks. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 8(1), 39-65 DOI:

Hadi, S., Purnaweni, H., & Prabawani, B. (2019). The powerless strategic environmental assessment (SEA): A case study of North Kendeng mountain area, Central Java, Indonesia. E3S Web of Conference-ICENIS, 125, 1-3. DOI:

Haryadi, Dwi (2015). Criminogenic factor of illegal mining in Bangka Belitung. Journal of Law Problems, 44(1), 52-58.

Haugaard, M. (2016) Bureaucracy, agency, elites and social critique. Journal of Political Power, 9(2), 153-156. doi: 10.1080/2158379X.2016.1191646 DOI:

Hidayaturrahman, M., Ngarawula, B., & Sadhana, K. (2020). Political investors: Political elite oligarchy and mastery of regional resources in Indonesia. Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, 1–13.

Ibrahim, I., Haryadi, D., & Wahyudin, N. (2018). From charm to sorrow: The dark portrait of tin mining in Bangka Belitung, Indonesia. People: International Journal of Social Sciences, 4(1), 360-382.

Jiang, J. (2018). Making bureaucracy work: Patronage networks, performance incentives, and economic development in China. American Journal of Political Science, 62(4), 982-999. DOI:

Konkipudi, K., & Jacob, S. (2017). Political pressures and bureaucratic consequences: Vignettes of Janmabhoomi implementation in Andhra Pradesh. Studies in Indian Politics, 5(1), 1–17. doi: 10.1177/2321023017698254 DOI:

Lazzari, S., & Levizzari, A. (2000). Life cycle costing as a new tool matching economical and environmental evaluations: The experience on a real case study. SAE Transactions, 109(6), 1906-1913 DOI:

Lovebrand, E., Mobjork, M., & Soder, R. (2020). The anthropocene and the geo-political imagination: Re-writing earth as political space. Earth System Governance, 4, 100051, 1-8 DOI:

Marantz, N. J., & Ulibarri, N. (2019). The tensions of transparency in urban and environmental planning. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 1–12 DOI:

Meier, K. J. (1997). Bureaucracy and democracy: The case for more bureaucracy and less democracy. Public Administration Review, 57(3), 193-199 DOI:

Meier, K. J. and O’Toole Jr., L. J. (2006). Political control versus bureaucratic values: Reframing the debate. Public Administration Review, 66(2), 177-192 DOI:

Mietzner, M (2007). Party financing in post-Soeharto Indonesia: Between state subsidies and political corruption. Contemporary Southeast Asia, 29(2), 238-263. DOI:

Moe, T. M. (1989). The politics of bureaucratic structure. In P. E. Peterson & John E. Chubb (Eds.), Can the government govern? Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 267-330.

Mongabay (2020). Sungai di bangka rusak akibat tambang timah dan sedimentasi.

Mongabay (2014). Persoalan batubara di Kaltim: Peraturan ada, penegakan hukum lemah (Bagian-2). Retrieved from

Naseemullah, A. & Chhibber, P. (2018). Patronage, sub-contracted governance, and the limits of electoral coordination. Comparative Politics, 51(1), 81-100. DOI:

Nzongola-Ntalaja, N. (1984). Bureaucracy, elite, new class: Who serves whom and why in Mobutu’s Zaire? Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, 18(1), 99-102 DOI:

Pekonen, K. (1985). Policy-making and the relationship between politics and bureaucracy. IRAS, 3, pp. 207-220. DOI:

Peters, B. G. (2001). The politics of bureaucracy (5th edition). London, UK: Routledge DOI:

Pusaka (2018). Laporan investigasi kasus Genting Hulu Kapuas Desember 2018.

Rockman, B. A. (2001). Theory and inference in the study of bureaucracy: Micro- and neo-institutionalist foundations of choice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 11(1), 3-27 DOI:

Rogers, Z. (2019). Deleting democracy: Australia and the surveillance juggernaut. AQ: Australian Quarterly, 90(3), 10-15

Rudalevige, A. (2009). The administrative presidency and bureaucratic control: Implementing a research agenda. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 39(1), 10-24 DOI:

Save Our Borneo (2019). PBS kelapa sawit diduga garap kawasan hutan dan buang limbah ke Danau Sembuluh.

Shidarta, S. & van Huis, S. C. (2020). Between revenues and public service delivery. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 176(2/3), 304- 337 DOI:

Spicer, M. W. (2015). Public administration in a disenchanted world: Reflections on Max Weber’s value pluralism and his views on politics and bureaucracy. Administration & Society, 47(1), 24–43. DOI:

Sonenshein, S., DeCelles, K. A. & Dutton, J. E. (2014). It’s not easy being green: The role of self-evaluations in explaining support of environmental issues. The Academy of Management Journal, 57(1), 7-37. DOI:

Suara Ombudsmen of Republic of Indonesia (2013, July-August). Patgulipat Ijin Lingkungan?

Tirto (2020). "16 juta lahan sawit di Kalteng dikuasai Sinarmas, Astra, dan Wilmar".

Tirto (2016). Akal-akalan izin Semen Indonesia di Rembang.

Toumbourou, T., Muhdar, M., Werner, T. & Bebbington, A. (2020). Political ecology of the post-mining landscape: Activism, resistance, and legal struggles over Kalimantan’s coal mining. Energy Research & Social Science, 65, 1-14. DOI:

Van Der Heijden, H. (2002). Political parties and NGOs in global environmental politics. International Political Science Review, 23(2), 187–201. DOI:

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI (2020). Hentikan proyek cetak sawah food estate di lahan gambut di kalimantan Tengah.

Warburton, E. (2018). A new developmentalism in Indonesia? Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, 35(3), Special Issue: The Indonesian economy in transition: Policy challenges in the Jokowi era and beyond (Part II), 355-368

Waterman, R. W., Rouse, A. & Wright, R. (1998). The venues of influence: A new theory of political control of the bureaucracy. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 8(1), 13-38. DOI:

Wood, B. D. & Waterman, R. (1991). The dynamics of political control of the bureaucracy. American Political Science Review, 85(3), 801-828. DOI:

Wood, B. D. & Waterman, R. W. (1993). The Dynamics of political-bureaucratic adaptation. American Journal of Political Science, 37(2), 497-528. DOI:

PJR icon
How to Cite
Alfirdaus, L., & Manalu, S. R. (2020). The politics of local government environmental evaluations: Assessing bureaucracy in post-Reformasi Indonesia. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(2), 72-87.