Wed, 16 Apr 2003

'I'm not sure the loans will be disbursed fairly'

Last year, each of the city's 287 subdistricts received Rp 250 million for a subdistrict empowerment program (PPMK). Despite reports about irregularities in the disbursement of the fund, which was managed by the subdistrict council, the administration plans to double the amount this year. The Jakarta Post talked to some residents about the program.

Warni, (not her real name), 50, is a sidewalk vendor selling soft drinks in Petamburan, Central Jakarta. She has four children and lives nearby with her husband:

My husband and I once received a loan offered by the subdistrict administration. It was my husband who applied for it through a committee established by the subdistrict. After waiting more than seven months and going through complicated procedures, the loan was granted. We got about Rp 3 million to develop our fledgling food stall.

My husband and I managed to pay monthly installments of Rp 300,000 for one year, despite the hardship of getting our business off the ground.

After we had paid back nearly Rp 1.5 million we found out that the subdistrict official who collected the cash had taken the money.

From then on, I decided to stop making monthly payments because it would make no difference paying off a corrupt official. Most of our fellow vendors also did the same thing. Nobody has asked for the rest of the loan so far.

Besides, not all of the other vendors have used the loan for their businesses. Many of them used the money for other things.

I think that loans to empower people are very useful to empower low-income earners like me, provided that the money is well-managed. Unfortunately, not all of us are aware of the benefits it brings.

I agree with the city administration's idea to grant more loans for each subdistrict. I'm sure that vendors who receive a loan will keep their promise to make installments regularly.

However, it is important to first empower the subdistrict officials so that they have better morals and set a good example for people to follow.

Rasudi, 53, sells fried snacks in Kayu Jati market, East Jakarta. He lives in Rawamangun Tegalan, East Jakarta, with his wife and four children:

I haven't heard about loans to help low-income earners like me. Does that mean every resident has the right to apply for a loan?

If an ordinary vendor like myself was entitled to apply for one, I would certainly go for it.

I think any vendor would be very happy to know about an empowerment fund like that because we realize that we are just selling fried snacks and we lack the adequate capital to develop our business further.

If my loan was approved, I would be able to branch out in my business, and not just sell fried snacks but perhaps rice as well. It would be far more profitable.

I would agree to pay back the loan in monthly installments as set out in the agreement. That would be our responsibility as borrowers, even though we know that it would not be that easy to earn money from our business.

Anyway, thanks for letting me know about the loan. I will try to find out more so I can ask the subdistrict administration officials about the chances of getting one.

Dirjo, 32, is a vendor selling chicken at Ampera market, East Jakarta. He lives in Kampung Ambon, East Jakarta with his wife and daughter:

It's a good idea that the subdistrict administration is extending loans to help empower those who fall within the low- income bracket.

However, I'm not interested in applying for one. The fact that many government officials, including those in the subdistrict, are corrupt makes me feel jaded about any government policy.

I'm not sure the loans would be disbursed fairly to all residents in dire need of money. It seems the government never sides with those who earn a low income.

The residents in my neighborhood once tried to improve the infrastructure there, but they realized that the subdistrict administration never cared about the condition of it.

I'm afraid that any funds given by the government will not end up in the hands of low-income residents to help them run their business due to the corrupt mentality of officials at the lower level.

By keeping that fact in mind, I would rather not rely on a loan from the subdistrict administration. I have to rely on my own finances because I have heard from others that the procedures are quite complicated.

-- Leo Wahyudi S