- Wayne Palmer. 2016. Indonesia’s Overseas Labour Migration Programme, 1969-2010. Brill: Leiden.
This book offers for the first time a detailed, critical analysis of the way in which the programme is managed and how that fits with other developments within the Indonesian government. Commonly portrayed as a corrupt bunch of officials out to line their own pockets at the expense of migrant workers’ welfare, here we are shown that they also make exceptions to rules when the law and political climate are not on their side.
Through the book’s focus on contestation at the state’s centre, it reveals the role that discretion plays in producing, sustaining and resolving inter-agency conflict. Attention to accommodation in the periphery demonstrates that discretion is a resource that allows the state to function when institutional relationships have broken down. In extraterritorial locations, he also exposes the extent to which discretion shapes administrative systems and determines implementation when institutional capacity and bureaucratic authority are limited.
The book used interviews with over 120 officials in six Indonesian provinces (Jakarta, Medan, Nunukan, Semarang, Surabaya, Tanjung Pinang) and three diplomatic missions in the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore) to understand motivations for corrupt and other illegal behaviour. Their experience and perspectives added a richness to this book that would have been very difficult (if not impossible!) to find elsewhere.