Sat, 28 Jun 2003

EU pledges 41m euros in aid for RI

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The European Union (EU) has pledged 41 million euros (US$46 million) in aid to help the Indonesian government undertake a variety of programs ranging from improving health and education to boosting trade and investment.

The European Union ambassador/head of delegation for Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and East Timor, Sabato Della Monica, said on Friday that the aid was part of the EU's country strategy for Indonesia from 2002 to 2006.

"Within this framework, the first priority for the development aid is health and education with the single aim of reducing poverty in the country," he told The Jakarta Post.

In a document called Country Strategy Paper for Indonesia 2002-2006 made available to the Post on Friday, the EU sets out its plan to improve the health and nutritional conditions of low- income families in some of the country's regions.

As for education, the EU's aid focuses on the providing of nine years of basic education as the early stage of education play a major role in improving the quality of life of many poor families.

Last year, as part of its country strategy for Indonesia, the EU approved 57 million euros in aid of which 35 million euros was allocated for health and education programs in three provinces -- South Sumatra, Jambi and Papua.

In the course of 25 years, the EU has disbursed 300 million euros in development aid for Indonesia.

The ambassador said that the latest figure exceeded the average amount annually disbursed by the EU over the last 20 years, which came in at about 20 million euros per annum.

When asked why the EU had dramatically increased its aid to Indonesia, he said: "We fully support the strong and new Indonesia ... we are striving to embark on a new partnership with the country."

A portion of the aid is also earmarked for financing a technical co-operation program in trade and investment aimed at creating a business environment favorable for the enhancing of EU--Indonesia economic relations.

The EU envisages that the program will result in, among other things, the removal of existing obstacles to foreign investment and the adoption of international and European standards.

"The program is also targeted at improving the capacity of the Indonesian government to manage its integration into the global economy," the paper said.

With total two-way trade valued at 14.2 billion euros in 2002, the EU is Indonesia's second largest trading partner after Japan. And if oil and gas are excluded, the EU is the country's largest trading partner with a total trade value of 12.9 billion euros, beating Japan into second place.

With a membership made up of 15 countries, the EU is the largest trading bloc ever formed in the world.