Tue, 23 May 2000

Mahmudi tries to sell regions on proposal

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Forestry and Plantation Nur Mahmudi Ismail said on Monday that regional administrations will benefit from his proposal to put all forestry concessions in the hands of Perum Inhutani, the state-owned forestry company.

Defying critics, Mahmudi continued with his campaign to sell his proposal, in which private companies wishing to exploit Indonesia's forestry resources must work under contract with Inhutani instead of under concessions.

On Monday, he spelled out the benefits to the different regions as the government implements the new regional autonomy law.

Regions will have greater say in the way forestry contracts are awarded. They will be able to keep up to 70 percent of Inhutani's share of the profit and create job opportunities for the locals, he said at a discussion on the government's forestry policy.

"Regional administrations will be involved. The good thing is that they will no longer think of their own regions but can also advise others on the conservation and development of forest land in different regions as well," he said.

Indonesia has 41 million hectares of production forest land that is managed by 320 units of forest concessions.

Currently, timber companies work under 20-year concessions, but the system has been widely criticized for failing to protect the sustainability of Indonesia's forests.

The discussion at the Manggala Wanabhakti building was organized by the Reform Committee for Forestry and Plantation Development and the Environmental Research Center of the Bogor Agricultural Institute.

Critics have warned that the proposal would lead to even greater destruction of Indonesia's forestry resources since companies were likely to be less concerned about conservation if working under contract rather than under concessions.

They also said that the plan goes against the spirit of the 1999 Regional Autonomy Law by depriving regions of the right to manage their own forestry resources.

Mahmudi, who disclosed the proposal early this month, is currently drumming up support before presenting it to the House of Representatives for approval.

He said on Monday that East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and the Jambi provincial administrations have already endorsed the proposal and that others would follow suit.

Mahmudi argued that under the proposal the decision of awarding the contracts would rest with the regions, including the involvement of local companies and workers.(10)