Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Royal Family of Indonesia's Central Bank

About a year ago, my wife took me to Begawan Giri Estate, a secluded, luxury resort in Bali, close to Ubud, set amidst acres of lush tropical greenery. Add in forests and rice-fields wrapped in mountain mists, and lovingly landscaped gardens and water gardens. I was fall in love at the first sight with the scene.
“Can we just stay here for a night?" I asked my wife.
“ Let’s just see first, who knows you would change your mind,” my wife answered calmly.
We decided to politely ask the manager to have someone take a short tour to the residences. The main part of the estate, set on 20 acres on the tip of a promontory between the Ayung river and a side stream, comprises five "beyond your dreams" residences - that might sound cliched but believe me, it isn't.
Each residence, which contains a master suite, three or four further suites and the rooms listed above, is completely unique. The prices are suitably frightening - US$500 a night (including taxes) for the smallest suite to US$4,500 for the whole of Umabona - but compared to the cost of staying at some of Bali's other top-end hotels, in my opinion, much better value for money.
Spending US$4,500 per night, Hell No! Even my whole year income would not enough! So, we decided to just enjoy the sight-seeing.
The management refuses to discuss guests, but other staff are not so secretive. The singer Barbra Streisand reportedly booked the entire estate (£11,000 a night), as did an Italian footballer earlier this year for his wedding. Sting, Brooke Shields, the Beckhams, designer Donna Karan and members of most major royal families have all stayed.
“We have a lot of local riches as guests. One of them, a deputy governor of Indonesia Central Bank (Bank Indonesia), stayed here for three nights,” said one of the staffs at the most expensive residence Umabona.
I was complaining of how come that a civil servant could afford to stay in such an expensive resort?
“That guy may have embezzled the state money or took the bribes from fugitive bankers,” I said.
“Have you checked the central bank governor salary,” my wife trying to drive me into positive way of thinking.
“Nope. How could we know. Central Bank is not a publicly-listed company where we could see bank executives salaries and bonuses. So, for the time being, I keep my negative thinking on that,” I said.
Leaving the resort, we kept discussing the Central Bank officer until my wife fall asleep.
Remembering that, I wasn’t surprised at all when The Jakarta Post run a headline story today that the board of governors of Bank Indonesia has submitted a proposal calling for each of its eight members to receive an annual salary of over Rp2.5 billion (US$272,296).
This was the first time the central bank had to consult the House of Representatives on pay for officials and employees, a consequence of the newly amended Law No. 3/2004 on Bank Indonesia.
In previous years, the central bank was able to determine its own pay for officials. The bank's website, however, does not contain any information on the current salaries of the board of governors. This is an irony as all banks under its supervision should announce every quarter the financial report, including the salary of bank executives.
I believe the numbers that BI are proposing to the House already discounted from what the governors received in the past for political reason. Well, if board member of governors of Bank Indonesia received annual salary above the US$272,296 in the past, they surely deserved to stay in Begawan Giri like the other royal families.



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