Fri, 29 Sep 2000

Government asked not to backtrack on autonomy plan

JAKARTA (JP): Political analysts asserted that there should be no backtracking on plans to implement regional autonomy in January next year, even though most of the regions may be ill- prepared to cope with the new responsibilities handed to them.

"Ready or not, the regions do not have any other option but to proceed with the process of regional autonomy. If we don't start now, then when?", political scientist Andi A. Mallarangeng said on the sidelines of a workshop on autonomy here on Thursday.

Andi, who was a senior official in the Ministry of State for Regional Autonomy, estimates that only about 20 percent of the country's regions are prepared to implement the autonomy scheme which is set to give greater power at the local level.

"Each region has its own natural resources, potential, characteristics and needs to be managed...There's no uniformity in implementing the autonomy policy".

Political analyst Soedjati Djiwandono, while supporting the idea, is not too optimistic about the regional autonomy scheme.

"Our central government is used to exploiting the regions, while the provinces are also used to getting exploited. So it will take some time to get used to the idea".

"But we have to move on. It's the price of democracy, in which we have to muddle through the process," Soedjati said.

Deddy Supriady Bratakusumah of the National Administration Agency (LAN) also said that the regions have no choice but to try to make things work.

"Trial and error is usual," Deddy said.

Thursday's workshop on regional autonomy was organized by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in cooperation with the French Embassy and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), and featured scholars such as the chairwoman of Lasema-CNRS Muriel Charras, Andre Feillard and LIPI's Syamsuddin Harris.

In a separate seminar earlier in the week, several officials warned provinces with mining and oil resources to familiarize themselves with the legal and technical aspects of contracts ahead of the implementation of regional autonomy.

Failure to do so may deter foreign investment.

"The fact is that the regions lack adequate banking capacity and investors will want proper documentation and guarantees in order to get loans," Director General of Mines Surna T. Djajadiningrat said.

Under the current mechanism, it is the central government and the House of Representatives who ink contracts of work with foreign investors.

Surna said the Ministry of Mines and Energy is in the process of forming a special acting board to help handle the signing of contracts both at the central and regional levels.(edt)