Poverty creeps upward in island’s richest regions
Denpasar and Gianyar, the second and the third richest regions in Bali after Badung, are seeing an increasing number of poor people receiving rice subsidies from the local government.
Rice subsidies are allocated for poor households only and recipients must undergo a verification process carried out by government agencies.
Data from the National Logistics Agency’s Bali office showed that the number of rice subsidy recipients in the two regencies increased significantly last month, despite the regencies’ high revenues, thanks to the fast-growing tourism industry.
Most of the island’s tourism facilities are located in those three regions, contributing significantly to their respective annual revenues. Badung, for instance, has an annual revenue exceeding Rp 1 trillion (US$106 million)nearly 80 percent of which is generated from tourism-related taxes. On the other hand, the lucrative tourism industry has also triggered a huge influx of migrant workers and unemployed people from other areas both in and outside Bali into these rich regions, a factor that may have contributed to the rise in the number of poor people.
In Denpasar, the number of rice subsidy recipients increased from 3,571 families in May to 13,573 families in June. In Gianyar, the number increased from 7,509 families in May to 24,046 families in June.
“The total number of recipients from January to May was 134,804 families. In the period of June to December, the number increased 34 percent to 180,862 families,” said Andi Abdul Rahman, the agency’s head of public service.
Each family receives a subsidy of Rp 5,000 per kilogram of rice, so it can buy the rice at Rp 1,600 per kilogram, cheaper than the market price of Rp 8,500 to Rp 9,000. Each family receives an allotment of 15 kilograms of rice per month.
The regency with the highest number of recipients is Buleleng with 47,511 families, followed by Karangasem with 26,787 families. The number of recipients in Karangasem has decreased from the previous number of 35,921 families.
Andi said the total amount of rice subsidies provided by the logistics agency was 2.7 to 3 tons per month.
He said the logistics agency received the data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), which regularly holds surveys on people’s social economic condition nationwide.
The survey includes data on the number of poor people, which is often a controversial subject.
“We received the data from the statistics agency, which decided which families were entitled to receive the subsidy. Our responsibility is only to distribute the rice to a number of designated locations in each village,” Andi said.
The head of Bali’s Statistics Agency, Gede Suarsa, said that the agency had applied some indicators to classify a family or an individual as “poor”.
The Agency uses a concept called “the basic needs approach” to determine a percentage of poor people compared to the total number of the population.
“First, we decide the amount of person’s monthly expenses to fulfill his basic food and non-food needs based on market prices, and set it as the ‘poverty line’,” said Gede.
“Those whose expenses per capita per month are below the poverty line are categorized as ‘poor’,” he added.
Andi said that the distribution of the rice subsidy in June had been hampered by some changes and adjustments in recipient data.
“We had only been able to distribute 53 percent of the rice subsidy in June due to technical problems, particularly with the data of the recipients.”
He stressed that the distribution of the rice subsidy is important to stabilize the market price of rice as the main staple food.