Wed, 02 Aug 2000

Experts: Regions unprepared for regional autonomy

JAKARTA (JP): The National Economics Council (DEN) chairman, Emil Salim, warned on Tuesday of the consequences of the implementation of regional autonomy laws next year, because, economically, only seven of the country's 27 provinces could survive without the central government's assistance.

Speaking at a seminar organized by the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) here, Emil predicted that the survivors would be Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Riau, East Kalimantan and Irian Jaya, thanks to their original revenue and profit-sharing income which were higher than their routine expenditure.

Emil, one of the country's leading technocrats who designed the long-term economic development in early 1970s, also maintained that only 17 regencies and mayoralties of about 300 regencies and mayoralties across the country were able to economically survive because of government assistance.

"The government needs a general allocation fund to assist the provinces that are suffering from their routine deficit," he commented.

Law No. 22/1999 grants more autonomy to local administrations and Law No. 25/1999 provides a larger proportion of revenue for the provinces, regencies and mayoralties.

Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo disclosed on Saturday that the local administrations would get more than 61.5 percent of the government's total domestic revenue when the autonomy laws take effect next year.

According to Emil, without a subsidy from Jakarta, only Bekasi, Tangerang, Karawang, Serang, Bogor and Bandung in West Java, Riau island in Riau, Denpasar and Badung in Bali, Kutai in East Kalimantan, Medan, Surabaya and Semarang were considered self-financing regions.

In implementing the autonomy laws, the central government is required to streamline its bureaucracy and the Cabinet.

"Therefore, a just and fair decentralization of fiscal policy is strategic to maintaining national unity and integration," Emil noted.

Emil said President Abdurrahman Wahid was facing heavy pressure from the regions, because the 350 regencies and mayoralties were demanding the implementation of the autonomy policy at the second administrative level, not at provincial level as currently planned.

"The regents and mayors are scheduled to meet with the President on Thursday in Kutai to convey their demands," Emil noted.

Economist Sri Adiningsih from Gajah Mada University said the regions were frustrated at what they called unfair treatment from the central government as most of the government's annual budget was spent in Java.

The economist said that based on data from 1995 and 1996, before the economic crisis hit the country in 1997, 60 percent of the national economic cake was enjoyed by the five provinces in Java, with Jakarta on top with 16 percent.

"Money circulation in Jakarta alone reached between 60 percent to 70 percent of total national circulation," said Adiningsih, who also addressed the seminar.

In the Dark

In a related scientific forum held by Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi, senior sociologist Selo Soemardjan said many people remained in the dark about the form of regional autonomy.

"They don't even know what autonomy really means. Therefore, they don't have any idea what sort of regional autonomy will be applied," he said at the opening of a four-day international symposium on regional administration.

Selo said that the regional autonomy laws had been so badly promoted that many people were poorly informed about them.

"Many people are unaware that the law acknowledges the traditional administration of villages. Article 93 of the law stipulates that villagers have the power to establish, dissolve or unite villages upon approval of the regencies," he said.

Ben Mboi, former governor of East Nusa Tenggara, agreed, saying that the concept of regional autonomy was unclear.

"If the concept of the extended autonomy only means more burdens on the regencies or mayoralties, provinces with many regencies will suffer," he said, citing East and West Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Irian Jaya, South and Southeast Sulawesi as examples. (27/prb/sur)