Until recently, observers tended to formulate their assessments about the character of politics and governance in Indonesia in general terms. Their observations about the venality of bureaucrats, the predatory nature of local politics or the resurgent powers of civil society were considered to apply across Indonesia. Yet over the last decade researchers have taken more interests in tracking and explaining variation across this wide and heterogeneous archipelago: has Indonesia’s decentralization process had the same impact everywhere? Are some regions more prone to ‘good governance’ and if so, why? This panel brings together a number of different studies that have addressed these questions. In doing so, this panel not only invites reflection on the causes and obstacles for improving the effectiveness of local governments, but also stimulates debate on the different research methods that these studies apply to capture the varied character of local governance in Indonesia.
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