Tue, 24 Jun 2003

Imam pledges free primary and high schools

Ainur R. Sophiaan, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

Gubernatorial aspirant Imam Utomo pledged on Monday free elementary and junior high schools for poor families in East Java, provided he was elected for the 2003 to 2008 period.

Speaking at a presentation of his vision and mission as governor for the next five years, Imam told 98 East Java legislature members that such a policy would be taken to ensure the success of the nine-year compulsory education program.

Compulsory education was launched in 1998 in a bid to improve the quality of the country's human resources. The program, however, was severely affected by the economic crisis that has plagued the country since 1997.

"We will improve our education in close cooperation with regency, municipal and provincial government, and the central government," said Imam, the current governor of East Java.

Imam, elected governor of East Java in 1998, said he needed some Rp 1.2 trillion to scrap school fees.

"The provincial government will shoulder Rp 400 billion, the central government another Rp 400 billion and the remaining Rp 400 billion will come from regency and municipal administrations in the province," he said.

There was no immediate data on the number of students from poor families in the province.

Imam, together with his running mate, Soenarjo, is nominated by President Megawati Soekarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the so-named Joint Faction. DPI Perjuangan is the second-largest faction in East Java after the National Awakening Party (PKB).

The gubernatorial election is slated to take place on July 19.

Imam, however, stressed that he would still seek approval from local legislature members on his plan to release elementary and high schools from charging school fees.

"If there were not a harmonious relationship between the executive and legislative branches, such a program would not work," he said.

Imam also complained that the budget allocated by the central government for the province was insufficient to develop the province.

"Funds from the central government have been inadequate for the provincial administration of East Java," he said.

Imam said East Java contributed Rp 14 trillion from cigarette levies to the central government but received back only Rp 4 billion.

He promised to work with local legislature members to negotiate with the central government so that the province could get at least 50 percent of revenues the province sent to the central government.

Meanwhile, Soenarjo, Imam's running mate as deputy governor, promised to improve social services in the provinces. He also pledged to cooperate fully with Imam, should he get elected as vice governor.

Imam also mentioned five priority projects if he got reelected as governor -- construction of an agribusiness market, the Surabaya-Madura bridge, the southern transportation route, eastern ring road and central ring road, and construction of the Mojokerto-Surabaya road.

Governor aspirant Abdul Kahfi and deputy governor candidate Ridwan Hasyim, nominated by the National Awakening Party (PKB) and Golkar, were due to present their vision and mission on Tuesday.