Indonesian officials ordered to eat street food to trim budget

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A vendor arranges a display of fresh local snacks at a market in Jakarta on November 28, 2014 ©Romeo Gacad (AFP)

Indonesia has ordered officials to eat local street food at meetings instead of fancy foreign fare and stop holding lavish parties, the latest moves by the new government to crack down on bureaucratic excess.

Snacks such as cassava, steamed corn and yam cakes should be served at official gatherings and the number of guests invited to high-ranking bureaucrats’ parties should be limited to 400, a minister said.

President Joko Widodo, who took office last month and is known as a modest figure from a humble background, has made reining in official spending and trimming back the graft-ridden nation’s bloated democracy a key goal.

He has already slashed travel and meeting budgets for next year, and last week sought to lead by example when he flew economy class to Singapore for his son’s graduation, winning widespread praise online.

Announcing the latest moves late Thursday, Yuddy Chrisnandi, minister for bureaucratic reform, ordered officials to “stop anything that is excessive”.

He said that gluttonous officials were at risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and that buying local snacks would help Indonesian farmers.

Chrisnandi said that the rules on food would be applied in all ministries and government offices from December 1. Those who broke them would face sanctions such as demotion or a postponement of bonus payments, he added.

The energy ministry, which is seeking to clean up its image following recent corruption scandals, has already sent out a list of permitted foods and has ordered drinks to be limited to coffee, tea and water.

The ban on lavish parties, due to come into effect early next year, is aimed at private functions held by high-ranking officials, which are often vast affairs at luxurious hotels.

Chrisnandi said such events “created an impression of inequality”.

“There are high-ranking government officials organising weddings for their children… inviting thousands, causing traffic jams.”

The moves echo an anti-corruption crackdown launched by China’s leader Xi Jinping after he came to power in late 2012, which included banning fancy fare from official banquets.

This article first appeared on Daily Mail Online.

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