Tue, 19 Dec 2000

Activists want changes to city budget draft

JAKARTA (JP): Some 50 people, most of them members of the Urban Poor Consortium, staged a protest in front of the City Council building on Monday to demand changes to the draft city budget.

The protesters came to the building in Central Jakarta to question the proposed Rp 7.49 trillion (US$788.40 million) 2000- 2001 budget.

The proposed budget, a large increase from the current Rp 4.18 trillion budget, fails to meet the needs of the poor, according to the protesters.

A pedicab driver, Slamet, from Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, said: "A large part of the (proposed) expenditures seem to be allotted to the needs of officials rather than the people."

A statement signed by 12 organizations and groups, including the Jakarta Network of Pedicab Drivers, questioned the need to increase routine expenditures in the budget by 128.9 percent.

In unveiling the draft budget in November, Governor Sutiyoso said that given the improved economic condition of Jakarta, he was optimistic the city could afford the proposed increases.

The statement also mentioned the allotment of Rp 100 million for the purchase of the governor's residence and Rp 366 million for the residence of the deputy governor; health care costs of Rp 78 million for the governor; the Rp 40 million for the governor's uniforms; and the more than Rp 1 billion for the uniforms of city councillors.

"Have they really run out of uniforms?" an activist asked during a meeting with councillors later in the day.

Council Speaker Edy Waluyo said the council would likely announce its decision on the draft budget by mid-January, about a month later than earlier scheduled. He said councillors had yet to complete their review of the draft.

"The councillors have agreed the routine expenditures in the draft city budget (Rp 5.02 trillion) are too large compared to (the money allotted for) development," Edy said, adding that several items may be cut from the draft budget.

The activists compared the expenditures in the budget for officials to those for the public to illustrate how officials "do not care about real social problems".

A table included with the statement compared the Rp 14.5 billion in allowances for the governor and deputy governor's households, to the Rp 3.1 billion to increase the nutrition of infants and pregnant women.

The table compared the costs "for guests", Rp 5.9 billion, to the funds for neglected children, Rp 1.35 billion.

Incentives for the provincial revenue agency reach Rp 111 billion; funds for disaster relief Rp 1.8 billion.

The protesters also noted the "militaristic" aspects of the budget, referring to the large amount of funds for public order operations and raids. Apart from the Rp 90.4 billion allotted for public order officials, the statement said Rp 12 billion in incentives were provided for personnel from the Jakarta Police.

A resident of Karang Anyar in West Jakarta, also named Slamet, said the money would be better spent buying land for squatters. "That way we wouldn't always be uprooted."

Governor Sutiyoso had said almost half of the total budget would be obtained from an increase in taxes on the transfer of vehicle ownership, vehicle ownership taxes and other sources.

The protesters began gathering at about 10:15 a.m., displaying banners and posters. They held a street performance dealing with the handing over of the budget from the councillors to the governor, marked by a large yellow cone of rice representing funds for officials, and another smaller one reflecting the money allocated to the people.

A huge banner erected in front of City Hall read: "The 2001 draft city budget = draft city budget for bureaucrats only. Salary, clothing, residences, cars, overseas trips = Rp 2.3 trillion. Evacuation of slums, (raids on) pedicabs, hawkers, street children = Rp 328 billion. Education, health, lighting the streets = Rp 1.2 billion."

Council Speaker Edy promised to meet with the protesters again to discuss their proposed draft budget. "Don't worry. We will not endorse the draft unless we are clear about the budget and expenditures." (07)