Fri, 24 Jan 2003

City council continues budget meeting in Ancol

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Having aborted its plan to hold a budget meeting in the Puncak hill resort in West Java, the city council now plans to hold its next round of meetings on the 2003 draft city budget in the Hotel Horison in Ancol, North Jakarta, on Saturday and possibly Sunday.

City Council deputy chairman Chudlary Syafei Hadzami confirmed on Thursday that the budget meetings would be held in the hotel, which is partly owned by the city administration.

"But we are not staying in the hotel. We will have left it by 10 p.m. If the meetings have yet to be completed, they will be continued on Sunday," Chudlary of the United Development Party claimed.

He said the meetings would be attended by the 32 councillors who are members of the team assigned to formulate the budget after it was discussed by the council's five commissions at City Hall on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, a reliable source said the council secretariat had booked 40 rooms in the hotel for two nights at an average cost of Rp 400,000 per room per night.

Last year, the councillors also formulated the city budget in the hotel after it had been discussed earlier at the city-owned Wisma Jaya Raya hotel and resort in Cipayung, Puncak, West Java.

The meetings will result in deals between councillors and city officials. Some projects will be approved while other projects will be rejected or have their funding cut.

Chudlary claimed holding the meetings in the Horison Hotel was aimed at avoiding disruption of the discussion as frequently happened in City Hall and the City Council building.

"We need to concentrate on formulating the budget. Here, we have to receive many guests. Demonstrators also frequently come here," Chudlary said.

Chudlary's fears were given substance on Thursday when hundreds of people from several organizations, including the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta), the Association for Humanity and Justice (Humanika), and Jakarta Development Watch (Jadewa) staged a rally in front of the council building.

The protesters, among other things, condemned the council's earlier meeting at the Ciloto Indah Permai Hotel in Ciloto, Puncak, West Java, for wasting public money.

In fact, this meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Wisma Jaya Raya but the resort was already booked by the paramilitary youth group Pemuda Panca Marga. It was then moved to the Ciloto Hotel instead.

Due to public complaints arising from widespread traffic jams in the area, the police ordered the meeting to be dissolved. It was then moved to City Hall. The cancellation of the meeting in the Ciloto Hotel reportedly resulted in losses worth Rp 75 million for Jakarta taxpayers as the councillors had already used the hotel for half a day.

Thursday's meeting at City Hall was closed to reporters.

The council's Commission E for social welfare affairs discussed on Thursday the allocation of about Rp 1.5 trillion for education sector, including teachers' salaries, or less than 15 percent of the overall budget.

"We demanded that the education budget should be increased to at least 20 percent," councillor Syamsidar Siregar told reporters after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the council's Commission D for development affairs discussed this year's planned projects with officials from the City Parks Agency and the City Public Works Agency.

The council's Commission A for administrative and legal affairs discussed the City Public Order Agency's budget of Rp 136 billion, including its plan to purchase gas pistols worth Rp 20 billion.

They earlier objected to the agency buying more pistols as these could be misused by agency officers. Last year, the agency purchased dozens of gas pistols.

The council's Commission C for budgetary affairs and Commission B for economic affairs completed their discussions on Wednesday.