Wed, 12 Sep 2001

House to start budget debate

JAKARTA (JP): The House of Representatives will begin debating the government-proposed 2002 state budget Wednesday and expects to finish the process before the House goes into recess on Oct. 24, a legislator said.

"The state budget is expected to be passed into law at the House's plenary session on Oct. 24," Abdullah Zainie of the Golkar faction told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Zainie, who is also a member of the House's budget committee, said that at the beginning of the debating process, the committee would give its general overview of the proposed 2002 state budget on wednesday, which would be followed by a session sometime next week in which the government will give its response to the House's general overview.

The real debates between the committee and the government over the budget will begin next week, he said.

"I expect the discussions will be heated and fierce," he said.

Zainie expects heated debate over the general assumptions in the 2002 state budget, including targets for economic growth and interest rates for Bank Indonesia's promissory notes (SBI), the budget deficit estimation.

Under the budget, the economy is projected to grow 5 percent next year, against the 3.5 percent target growth of this year. Meanwhile the SBI rate is targeted at an average 14 percent compared to 15 percent in 2001 and the budget deficit is set at 2.5 percent of gross domestic product, against 3.7 percent this year.

"Everything will be dissected. The government must convince us that its projections are valid and backed up with relevant data," he said.

Zainie expressed concerns over the lack of time available for the deliberation of the state budget, reiterating that the discussions would be fierce and that more time would be needed.

"For example, the development budget needs to be discussed in detail by each of the House's commissions together with related ministries. That will certainly take a long time," he said.

He noted, however, that an extension of time for the discussions of the state budget was normal, citing for instance the debate on the 2001 state budget, which continued after the House's recess period. (tnt)