'Indonesian & Filipino Corruption Compared'

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/24/2010 01:29:00 PM
With Christmas a few hours away, here's more lighthearted fare for you all. A few weeks ago, I attended an LSE event held by our colleagues here at the Asia Research Centre intriguingly titled "Where Have all the Bad Guys Gone? Governance in Indonesia Today." Since Southeast Asia is my area of interest for obvious reasons, governance matters are a matter near and dear to me. Needless to say, it was a very interesting discussion. After the event, Roger Montgomery told me the following joke about the difference between Indonesia and Filipino corruption, with the latter coming out worse and being the punch line.

So the Philippines ranks rather lower than Indonesia in corruption perceptions via the likes of Transparency International .The latter has made some strides towards combating corruption that the Philippines should investigate. Ah well, I just hope my retelling is reasonably accurate for now. Here it goes...

A decade and a half ago, Dian and Renato were roommates at Harvard Business School studying for their MBAs. Reminiscing about their B-school days, Dian rung up his Filipino friend Renato from his office in Jakarta. When Renato had free time, Dian said, he should come visit Indonesia.

And so it came to pass that Renato found some time off work to accept the invitation of his old roommate. Upon arriving at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Renato was suitably impressed when Dian sent a Mercedes-Benz limousine to pick him up. Arriving at Dian's sprawling mansion in Jakarta's exclusive Kebayoran Beru residential district, Renato greeted his old friend warmly:

"I've got to hand it to you, Dian. You've really made it. Once we were just grad students struggling to get by. But look at you now, you're a wealthy industrialist--one of Indonesia's elite! What's the secret of your success?"

Dian just grinned, told Renato to get back in the car, and instructed his chauffeur to drive to the outskirts of Jakarta. While approaching a power plant, Dian asked Renato, "Do you see that geothermal plant?"

Renato nodded.

Dian smiled broadly at his friend and said, "ten percent!"

Renato gave Dian a big pat on the back and replied, "That's brilliant, Dian!" For the rest of his stay, Renato was treated to the finest entertainment money can buy in Jakarta. But, in the back of his mind, he was already plotting how to top his old schoolmate.

Four years later, Dian was at work when Renato rang him up and invited him to visit the Philippines. Renato assured him of a good time, and Dian found himself in Manila two months afterward.

Arriving at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Dian was suitably impressed when Renato sent a stretched Mercedes-Benz limousine to pick him up, complete with a chauffeur wearing immaculate white gloves. Arriving at Renato's mansion in Manila's exclusive Forbes Park residential district, Dian greeted his old friend warmly:

"I've got to hand it to you, Renato. You've really made it. Not so long ago we were just MBA students scrounging for our meals. But wow, you're now the toast of the town --one of the Philippine elite! What's the secret of your success?"

Renato just grinned, told Dian to get back in the car, and instructed his chauffeur to drive to the outskirts of Manila. For two hours they talked about the good old days until they came upon an empty stretch of road. Renato pointed at nothing in particular and asked Dian, "Do you see that geothermal plant?"

Dian looked at the empty expanse, scratched his head and said, "I don't see anything."

Renato smiled broadly and said, "one-hundred percent!"

This joke is probably based on the infamous Bataan Nuclear Power Plant that the US-based firm Westinghouse built under the rule of Ferdinand Marcos but was never used. (History buffs will also remember Bataan as the site of the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March.)