Mon, 06 Mar 2000

Regional autonomy 'not as easy as it sounds'

JAKARTA (JP): State Minister of Regional Autonomy Ryaas Rasyid denied the central government was being tardy in its preparations to implement regional autonomy, saying officials were painstakingly drafting the necessary arrangements to make the program workable.

"The implementation of regional autonomy is not as easy as it sounds. It could bring less changes to regions and even become unused if everything is done too abruptly," he said in a seminar on regional autonomy organized by the West Kalimantan Community in Jakarta (IKKB) here on Saturday.

Many sides, including the IKKB, have criticized the government for dragging its feet in making preparations to implement the much-anticipated regional autonomy.

Ryaas defended himself against the criticism, contending that as much as it would like to, the government cannot act as fast as many desire as the implementation of regional autonomy requires the establishment of "strong software and hardware".

"The two laws on regional autonomy and on fiscal balance are not adequate to be held as a legal basis for implementing autonomy. Besides issuing a number of new regulations to enforce the two laws, the government also has to amend many other laws to synchronize them with the autonomy implementation. And all this work needs a relatively long time," he said.

He cited as an example that his office in cooperation with other ministries was drafting at least ten government regulations to start implementing autonomy in January 2001.

"The most crucial and long-awaited is the regulation on powersharing between the central and provincial administrations ... The division of authority must be clear-cut to avoid overlaps in administrative affairs," he said, adding the regulation would be issued in May at the latest.

Ryaas also said he and Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo would issue five regulations to enforce the fiscal balance law, regulating, among others, negotiations on sharing profits from natural resources and on cross-subsidies from resource-rich regions to less developed ones.

The government will also revise the 1982 law on spatial zoning and the 1974 law on regional administrations to make them consistent with the planned decentralization of much authority to provincial administrations.

Ryaas said that despite the deadline of Jan. 2001, the implementation of regional autonomy would partly depend on the readiness of the regions themselves to carry it out.

A full implementation of regional autonomy will be conducted only in provinces and regencies, which, if seen from the perspective of their human resources and managerial skills, are considered prepared, he remarked.

He said that under developed provinces such as Aceh and Irian Jaya may not be ready to fully implement regional autonomy.

According to Ryaas, such provinces would likely only be delegated a certain amount of authority of which they had been assessed as able to handle.

"To me, regional autonomy is not an efficacious medicine to treat political and economic problems in provinces because it depends much on their own preparedness to implement it," he said.

He suggested local administrations immediately begin recruiting qualified personnel to fill the high demand for skilled officials in the bureaucracy.

Asked about the role of the police in such a system, Ryaas remarked that they should shift their main deployment away from urban centers to maintain security and order in rural and remote areas.

"Police should no longer be concentrated in urban areas, especially provincial capitals, because their presence will be much needed in rural and remote areas," he said.

In Saturday's seminar, many West Kalimantan figures called on the government to give special autonomy to the province in compensation for the over-exploitation of its natural resources and damages to its environment in the past.

Ryaas said at the most the government could give special treatment to help redevelop its forests and local culture. (rms)