Opposition says subdistrict funds ‘political’ ahead of presidential election

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The government’s plan to disburse funds to subdistricts across the country has been met with criticism from the opposition, which says such funds are political ahead of the 2019 general election.

The fund would be disbursed to every subdistrict across the country, including ones located in cities. It will be allocated from the 2019 state budget (APBN) through the General Allocation Funds (DAU) scheme.

“It wasn’t included in the 2019 state budget bill before. Why do they suddenly want the fund to be included in the bill without any proper regulation, months prior to the presidential election?” Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) senior politician Hidayat Nur Wahid said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.

“We demand the government issue the regulation pertaining to the funds first. Without any regulation, it will become corruption.”

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko has dismissed such concerns. “Local leaders are expected to work more flexibly with the fund. That’s the rationale behind such a plan; there are no politics,” he said as quoted by Kompas TV.

The plan for the disbursement arose after hearing a number of complaints from residents regarding operational funds at the subdistrict level.

“The amount allocated [to subdistricts] will be different compared to village funds, as the size of subdistrict areas tends to be smaller compared to villages,” Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said a statement on Saturday.

In a separate statement, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the amount of the funds disbursed would be stipulated in a revision of Government Regulation No. 17/2018 on district regulation, the amount of which ranges between 4 to 5 percent of the regional budget (APBD).

The revision, Jokowi added, would also act as an operational guideline regulating the usage and monitoring of the fund.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani has approved the suggestion and said the total amount of the subdistrict fund would be Rp 3 trillion (US$197 million), as reported by kontan.co.id. The number, the minister said, would be taken from the total village fund of Rp 73 trillion.

As the Home Ministry stated there are 8,545 subdistricts across the country to date, each will receive around Rp 350 million.

Roy Salam, a researcher from the Indonesia Budget Center (IBC), said he lauded the fund for urging the citizens’ participation, as the fund was intended for citizen empowerment activities at the subdistrict level, as had been discussed in regional development planning forums (musrenbang).

He, however, highlighted the challenge of managing the funds transparently and accountably, as most regencies’ and cities’ APBDs had yet to be transparent. Regional administrations tend not to publish documents related to the APBD.

“It’s OK to allocate the fund from the APBN, although it might need strict preconditions [persyaratan ketat]. For example, the fund will be given to subdistricts that already have a budget transparency system and published APBD documents for, at least, the last two fiscal years,” Roy said.

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