Indonesia as a weak state? Bank restructuring after the Asian Financial Crisis
AuthorBusch, Matthew Aaron
AffiliationMelbourne Law School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-05-22.
© 2019 Matthew Aaron Busch
This thesis presents an original case study of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), which was established to manage virtually all interventions into Indonesia’s banking system during the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis. Although a seminal moment in Indonesia’s economic history, there is limited scholarship and even less popular understanding about the crisis and IBRA’s work to overcome it. This thesis is interested in how the state goes about defining, legitimising, and executing its responsibilities. Often, the state, or, more accurately, its actors and organisations, seems to work at cross-purposes to its ostensible policy objectives. Indeed, sometimes the state becomes more a site for different groups or actors to contest these actions. Examined closely, these contests reveal much about the nature of power in a society. To conceptualise these tensions, this thesis uses the analytical framework of a ‘weak state’, at the centre of which is understanding of the institutional factors that make some states less effective. This thesis surveys sociology, political economy, and economics literatures to synthesise its own definition of a weak state, that is, a state reliant on informal, negotiated, and ad hoc strategies to accomplish its objectives. Frequently these strategies are at odds with the established legal or procedural tools at its disposal. They are, as the thesis shows, historically and institutionally embedded. The thesis applies the weak state premise through its original research on IBRA. This analysis uses data collected through interviews and audits of the agency. In particular, the thesis closely examines IBRA’s work to conclude contracts, known as Shareholder Settlement Agreements, with two owners of major private banks it took over during the crisis. These contracts were ‘out of court settlements’ designed to trade legal release for the bank owners for the transfer of assets that could be quickly sold to recover part of the government’s spending on the rescue. This analysis shows how despite initial aspirations, IBRA made most progress within the modalities of a weak state, including negotiated and ad hoc strategies. Indeed, the very essence of this work and the actual procedures used to accomplish these settlements were highly informal. Moreover, IBRA’s progress generated considerable controversy and opposition within the state. This continues to have implications today, as evidenced through the corruption conviction – and unprecedented acquittal – of former IBRA Chairman Syafruddin Temenggung for actions related to one of the Shareholder Settlement Agreements. Ultimately, as the thesis shows, it was not only IBRA’s strategies that were highly contested, but even the state’s attempts to adhere to a transparent and legal approach in dealing with private bank owners. Ultimately, although IBRA recovered but a fraction of the funds spent rescuing private banks – a finding confirmed by this research – the thesis challenges whether this really was a poor outcome in light of the institutional problems confronting the agency.
KeywordsIndonesia; Indonesian Studies; Indonesian legal studies; Indonesian economic studies; Political economy; Asian Financial Crisis; Bank restructuring; Financial restructuring
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