Fri, 05 Mar 1999

Social safety net seen 'as charity, burden'

JAKARTA (JP): Many recipients of the social safety net funds see the aid program as charity, which is creating a new sense of dependency, a social researcher said.

Henny Warsilah of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said the funds could also pose another problem for recipients, as others not receiving the funds may become jealous, Antara reported Thursday from a seminar on the social safety net funds.

"People perceive the government aid only as charity, where they have no responsibility," she told the seminar.

Similar to the presidential funds for poor villages, the safety net program was designed without proper preparation and knowledge of communities, Henny said.

She was on a team of researchers evaluating the government's social safety net program.

Several non-governmental organizations have demanded that the World Bank delay further disbursement of the funds because of a lack of adequate supervision.

The government has requested Rp 20 trillion for the safety net program of the next fiscal year, while promising to introduce independent monitoring of the funds distribution, among other checks.

Henny said that further research needed to be conducted before the funds were distributed. She said more had to be known about the recipient communities' attitudes toward outside aid, locals' perceptions of their economic situations, and how capable potential recipients would be in managing donated funds.

In a number of communities, such as those in Tangerang and Kulonprogo in Yogyakarta, several residents said they felt the program was forced upon them by the government.

Henny said there were recipients who felt that their condition was not as bad as the government understood it to be.

Rushed preparations based on the assumptions of planners led to the targeted communities also feeling unprepared as they were not involved in the planning stages at all.

The team of researchers from the science institute cited a number of problems in the implementation of the safety net program.

First, the well intended aid led to jealousy among people because of a lack of clear criteria in distribution of the funds.

New social divisions were seen in villages between those who received funds and those who did not.

The safety net program has also put a new burden on residents, as only vague instructions were given for the use of the funds.

Antara quoted the researchers as saying this was because the authorities handing out the money wanted diversification in the use of the funds, but gave no details or guidelines as to how this was to be done. As a result the funds were underused, the team said.

Furthermore, the safety net program has led to feelings of inferiority among recipients when dealing with administrative officials relating to the funds, the team said.

Meanwhile, the Antara news agency reported on Wednesday from Canberra, Australia, that the safety net program would be one of the topics discussed in a meeting in Sydney on Friday on Development Cooperation for the Crisis in Asia.

Antara quoted the assistant to the director general of the Australian Development Cooperation Institute, Laurie Engel, as saying the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were to be participants at the talks. (anr)