The Jakarta Post
Following the earthquakes in the past two weeks in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, donations have been pouring in. The hundreds of aftershocks have also affected neighboring Bali and fears of a tsunami remain. The national disaster mitigation authorities reported more than 160 had been killed as of Thursday while rescuers and aid workers struggle to reach remote areas, particularly in the north of the island.
Foreign governments have also been evacuating their citizens from the area as hundreds of tourists were enjoying the summer holiday season around the coasts or trekking routes of the beautiful eastern islands.
Even though Indonesians live on fault lines or near volcanoes or the ocean, each disaster across the archipelago catches us largely unprepared. Nevertheless, following calamities such as the 2004 tsunami and earthquake in Aceh, and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Yogyakarta and North Sumatra, waves of donations immediately flow in. Rightly our instinct is solidarity with all those affected, and we tap away at our gadgets or go to the nearest ATM to transfer whatever sum we can in the hopes of making a difference.
While such solidarity is praiseworthy, what is also vital is more certainty of availability of funds in a country with a constant threat of disasters, not to mention harrowing accidents blamed on human recklessness. Despite developing technology regarding earthquakes, for instance, experts say it is still impossible to detect the precise moment a quake will hit with enough time to warn a large and dense population. Therefore, when settlements become suddenly isolated, there is a considerably long timeframe between the breaking of the news, spontaneous fundraising among the public and delivery of aid to those in need.
This week, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNBP) said several villages in the north had not received any help as five bridges connecting them had collapsed.
Beyond our tradition of spontaneous solidarity, which we practice daily, the nation lacks institutionalized philanthropy beyond instant donations. Communities and individuals take a long time to recover, years after the headlines shift to other issues and other tragedies.
The Islamic community has an advanced degree of organized charities as zakat, or tithes, are obligatory for Muslims, with a government body managing the funds. Several private organizations have long conducted philanthropic measures, which are understood to be longer term and more focused compared to charity. Many companies are trying to improve their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities despite unclear regulations.
Lack of clarity includes tax incentives for philanthropy and CSR, concerns that have been raised over the past few years. In the absence of clear rules, public benchmarks have been formed around organizations that have long established credibility. More importantly, clear rules on the supervision of such organizations and their transparency are also crucial. Sustained funds with a guarantee of no leakage and mismanagement would better help disaster-hit communities to move on.
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