Fri, 14 Mar 2003

Govt to supervise Aceh and Papua budgets

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The central government is making another attempt to reduce the authority of autonomous Aceh and Papua by setting up an assistance team to supervise the use of the regional budget in those two provinces.

Citing the large amount of money that the two resource-rich provinces will get under the arrangements outlined in the special autonomy package, Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno said on Thursday that the funds would be prone to abuse by both Acehnese and Papuan officials.

"Since we allocated a huge amount of money to them, we have the right to supervise its use," Hari said after a limited Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Under the arrangements made in the special autonomy, the two provinces were given the authority to draw up plans on how to spend their respective budgets while taking into account the needs of locals.

"The two provinces have submitted their budgets with programs to the central government and we want to see whether or not those programs will improve the welfare of locals," Hari said.

During the 2002 fiscal year, Aceh received Rp 2.2 trillion from the general allocation fund, and another Rp 1.87 trillion from the profit sharing of oil and gas revenue.

For the 2003 fiscal year, the province will get a total of Rp 2.3 trillion from the general allocation fund, while the profit sharing will revolve around last year's figure.

Papua, on the other hand, received a total of Rp 1.3 trillion from the general allocation fund in 2002. That amount went up to Rp 1.5 trillion in 2003.

In addition, the province got Rp 663 billion from profit sharing of the oil and gas revenue in 2002 and about the same amount in 2003.

"The two provinces have a lot of money because of special autonomy. We would like to see that money improve people's welfare," Hari said.

The assistance team, Hari said, would consist of interdepartmental officials so that regional offices could not refuse the supervision.

He denied allegations that Jakarta was trying to intervene in the provinces' internal affairs, saying that the central government was just making sure that education, health and other public service sectors received a sufficient amount of the regional budget.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri is known for her resentment of the implementation of regional autonomy in the country, which was officially imposed by former president Abdurrahman Wahid in 2000.

Megawati, who took over the national leadership in July 2001 after members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) impeached then president Abdurrahman Wahid for incompetence, had tried to amend the Regional Autonomy law.

She has blasted regional officials for what she said was their failure to improve people's welfare, one of the original purposes of the implementation of regional autonomy.

On Monday, Megawati reminded regional governments of the need to improve public services, citing that the main purpose of the implementation of regional autonomy was to ensure people's welfare.

"Regions must remember that stronger authority means a heavier obligation, not just more rights," Megawati said while opening a seminar for the revitalization of Sangihe and Talaud regencies.

The Special Autonomy laws were issued for Papua and Aceh to appease the Papuans and Acehnese, who had long been disappointed with government policies in their provinces.

According to the law, the central government has the right to run several issues, such as defense, currency, foreign affairs and other fiscal policies.

"Jakarta is aware of the presence of local councils and the BPKP, but sometimes it takes more than the two agencies to ensure the effectiveness of allocating the budget for locals," Hari said.