The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 03/27/2009 1:43 PM | National
Despite regional autonomy having been rolled out in Indonesia a decade ago, most political parties contesting the 2009 elections have remained almost silent about improving public services at local level during their campaign rallies.
Instead of explaining to their wealth-hungry constituents their strategies to alleviate poverty and improve the local economy, most parties have taken the opportunity to prematurely introduce their presidential candidates or lure support through musical performances.
Economic issues have been raised, including the late distribution of direct cash assistance (BLT) for millions of poor families, but most of them have been turned into mere rhetoric among rival major parties.
The parties, regardless of popularity and ideology, seem to be avoiding direct discourse about their long-term plans on improving the implementation of regional autonomy, critics say.
“The implementation of regional autonomy is key to the government’s efforts to provide people with better public services,” Cecep Effendi, a political analyst from the German government’s Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), said Tuesday.
“But this is ironic, because none of the parties has so far prioritized the issue of improving the implementation of regional autonomy in its campaign agenda.”
Since the Regional Autonomy Law took effect in 1999, Indonesia has seen the formation of 191 new legislative regions, including seven provinces, 163 regencies and 33 municipalities.
This boom, Cecep went on, had failed to effectively deliver public services, because the regional budget allocated for public spending was still far too low.
Spending on healthcare, for instance, accounts for between 3 and 5 percent of most regional budgets, while the budget allocation for education remains far below the constitutionally mandated 20 percent.
GTZ and several NGOs recently examined the official platforms of parties contesting the upcoming elections, to gauge their commitment to improving regional autonomy.
They found only 16 of the 38 parties had stated in their platforms the issues of regional autonomy improvement.
But the NGOs discovered only nine of the parties stated their agenda on regional autonomy more clearly than others, although most platforms were still “far from comprehensive”, according to Agung Pambudhi, executive director of the Monitoring Committee of Regional Autonomy Implementation (KPPOD).
The nine standout parties include the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Crescent Star Party (PBB), the Labor Party and the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS).
The Golkar Party and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party gave a one-paragraph mention of regional autonomy in their respective platforms, but did not touch on it again.
The examination also found the improvement of regional autonomy implementation was lacking from the platforms of several major parties, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the United Development Party (PPP), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Awakening Party (PKB).
Ahmad Hambali from the Regional Autonomy Centre (TRAC) attributed centralized leadership for the parties’ failure to put public services revamp on their agendas.
“Party policies and platforms tend to serve the political interests of top leaders,” he said. (hwa)