Pay for performance? (Indonesia)

Indonesia’s government has increased raised judicial salaries in an attempt to combat corruption. According to The Jakarta Post, salaries had been set at Rp 1.8 million to Rp 4.5 million ($186 to $465) per month, but will rise to Rp. 10.5-45 million (approx. $1,086-4,657) per month, a tenfold increase. Perhaps even more surprisingly, this makes Indonesian judges amongst the highest paid in Asia (Singapore’s are the highest overall).

The Supreme Court has stated its hope that this move will reduce corruption within the judiciary. The logic goes that judges will be less tempted to accept bribes. However, there is little empirical evidence that simply increasing the salaries of public servants decreases corruption. To some extent, public officials will not need to resort to corruption in order to survive. However, plenty of corrupt officials have continued engaging in corruption even after becoming rich. Suharto reaped billions, thousands of times what he would have needed to live a comfortable lifestyle. Cross-national research on corruption is notoriously unreliable (for a review of the literature, see Treisman (2007)).
Overall, this is an encouraging move. It’s hard to imagine any significant downsides to increasing judicial salaries. Even if it doesn’t reduce corruption overnight, it might make the judiciary a more attractive career for the best and brightest lawyers.

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