Sun, 02 Feb 2003

Budget approved sans public debate

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Jakarta legislative council approved on Friday the Rp 10.98 trillion (US$1.2 billion) 2003 city budget with little public debate.

The council also approved the city's off-budget reserves of Rp 750 billion to finance the handling of natural disasters, including floods.

The approved budget represents a 10 percent increase from last year's budget of Rp 9.7 trillion, but a decrease from the city's original budget proposal of Rp 11.05 trillion.

On the revenue side, the city expects to generate local income of Rp 4.6 trillion. On top of that, the city hopes to receive Rp 4.2 trillion from the central government. The remaining Rp 2.06 trillion of revenue will come from the leftover funds from last year's budget.

Most of the city's local revenue will come from vehicle taxes, hotel and restaurant taxes, and advertising taxes. Only a small portion of the local revenue, 0.2 percent, will come from the profits of about 30 city-owned firms, many of which suffered losses last year.

Revenue from the central government will come in the form of shared income and property taxes and the general allocation fund (DAU) from the state budget. The DAU for Jakarta will reach Rp 950 billion this year.

On the spending side, this year's budget uses new terms such as administration spending and public and capital spending, while last year's budget knew only routine and development expenditures.

Much of the money in this year's budget will go to routine expenditures such as paying administration costs, totaling Rp 3.8 trillion, as well as operational and maintenance costs for public facilities, totaling Rp 3.7 trillion.

In addition, the budget allocates Rp 2.9 trillion for capital spending, Rp 403 billion for donations to social and religious organizations and Rp 74 billion for a contingency fund.

Money under the capital spending category will be used to finance development projects.

The council's largest faction, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), asked the city administration to review certain potentially problematic projects such as the controversial busway project.

"The (busway) project will take place on roads that are already crowded. The administration should study it further," the faction's spokesman, Maringan Pangaribuan, said during the council's plenary session on Friday.

The budget allocates Rp 83 billion for the busway project, which will set aside lanes on Jakarta's main thoroughfares of Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin for as yet imported buses.

There was very little public involvement in the deliberation of the budget, in part because the venues for the budget deliberations were frequently changed.

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) visited the council on Wednesday to demand the postponement of the budget's approval due to the lack of public debate.

They said the closed-door meetings held to discuss the budget, including an aborted meeting at a hotel in Ciloto, Puncak, were an effort by city councillors and city officials to avoid public monitoring.

The council's approval of the budget on Friday for all intents and purposes closed the door on any public demands for revisions to some of the budget's allocations.

A number of NGOs, including the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, the Urban Poor Consortium and the Indonesia Corruption Watch, have criticized the allocation of Rp 8 billion for Governor Sutiyoso, Rp 5 billion for Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo and Rp 117 billion for the council's 11 councillors.

This allocation of funds for the city's top leaders compares to the Rp 26 billion allocated for the city's 1.2 million poor under the people empowerment program.