An Indonesian Nightmare May Soon Recur

The famously corrupt customs service is getting its job back

Veteran shippers to Indonesia still remember the bad old days of red tape and graft at Tanjung Priok, the port of Jakarta. The 15,000-member customs service opened every single package and container that came in, hopelessly backing everything up. "For one shipment, we had to get 37 signatures on one document, and then at every table we had to give a little lubrication. We paid maybe $250 per document, maybe 20 or 30 documents a month," recalls Amirudin Saud, Chairman of the Indonesian Importers Assn., referring to his own textile factory. The nightmare ended in 1985, when President Suharto hired a Swiss firm to replace the corrupt customs service.

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