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Excess: Flames engulf government cars in front of the regency administration office in Mojokerto, East Java in this May 21, 2010 photo, following the disqualification of a candidate for regent. Aimed at improving public services, regional autonomy is an ongoing experiment more than a decade old, with critics decrying negative effects, such as the rush for new positions, as parliament continues to pass laws on new regions. Antara/Syaiful ArifRegional autonomy experts are calling on the central government to focus on merging the country’s worst-performing provinces, regencies and municipalities, given their failure to bring significant progress to their people and strengthen democracy.
Several critics have also urged the government to maintain the moratorium against the creation of new regions, despite proposals for new jurisdictions continually being pushed by lawmakers.
Siti Zuhro, a member of the Home Ministry’s Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) expert team, said the moratorium, set to end in December, should be kept in place to curb political enthusiasm from local elites and political parties to form new regions. According to a government evaluation, almost all of the 205 new regions formed between 2001 and 2008 failed to perform well in improving social welfare and strengthening democracy.
“Both the central government and the House of Representatives should close the channel for the increasing number of proposals for new regions, at least for the time being, and focus on the merger of the under-performing regions,” Siti said recently.
“Otherwise, we will see more bloodshed.”
Siti was referring to a 2008 rally that ended in the death of North Sumatra Legislative Council speaker Azis Angkat, in connection to the proposed formation of Tapanuli province, which led the central government to launch the moratorium against new regions.
She warned that the political interests behind the House’s approval of new regions have failed to thoroughly take into account numerous crucial factors, including the administrative and human resources requirements, set by the government in forming new regions.
The central government allocated Rp 1.33 trillion (US$144.97 million) in general allocation funds for 22 newly developed regions in 2003, doubling that to Rp 2.6 trillion for 40 new regions in 2004 and then allocating Rp 47.9 trillion in 2010.
The government has also allocated funds to build infrastructure in new, under-developed regions. These funds are incentives that are suspected to have contributed to the repeated proposals for new regions.
Public administration expert Ryas Rasyid, who initially helped design the country’s regional-autonomy framework and now a presidential advisor on bureaucratic reform, said the government should maintain the moratorium.
“The government should speed-up regional autonomy in Aceh and Papua to allow them to catch up with other developed provinces,” he said.
Ryas added that improving the autonomy of Aceh and Papua was crucial to improving the welfare of people in areas located on the border of neighboring countries.
According to a government evaluation in April 2011, three years after Government Regulation No. 6/2008 on the evaluation of local governments was issued, almost all new regions formed between 2000 and 2008 failed to reach minimum targets set by the central government in the areas of public services, governance, competitiveness and social welfare.
Only the municipalities of Banjarbaru in South Kalimantan and Cimahi in West Java scored relatively high, partly thanks to being administrative municipalities since the New Order era.
Of the seven new provinces, North Maluku, Gorontalo and Bangka Belitung scored below the minimum of 60 out of 100. West Papua, effectively formed in 2003, was the worst-performing province.
The government also ranked the 198 new regencies and municipalities regarding the local governments’ performance and has released the top ten performing and under-performing administrations, according to the same criteria.
The evaluation method gives a weight of 30 percent to social welfare, 25 percent each for good governance and public service, and 20 percent for competitiveness.
The independent Regional Autonomy Watch (KPPOD) criticized the way the central government evaluated the regions.
KPPOD external affairs manager Robert Endi Jaweng hailed the systematic evaluation method but said it has not been applied regularly and fairly.
He said that based on KPPOD’s field observations, the evaluation, which was conducted only once in a decade, was unfair and the inputs for the evaluation were based on the new regions’ compulsory regular reports, random monitoring and questionnaires.
“If a new region forgets to send its report on activities in certain fields or its report fails to meet the standard requirements, it will be crossed out in the evaluation,” he said.
Robert said several new regions had been deemed under-performing for failing to submit their reports regularly, but they actually had improvements in the subject areas.
The KPPOD urged close monitoring and human-resources training of personnel in charge of the new regions to improve their performance.
Robert said the government lacks the political commitment to enforce Government Regulation No. 6/2008 on evaluation of local governments and Government Regulation No. 129 on the formation and merger of new regions.
“The government should have evaluated the new regions three times since the regulation was issued and merge the ten most under-performing regions with their nearest region to prevent them from overburdening the state budget,” he said.
The House greeted the government’s plan to be more selective and alert in forming new regions, but warned against the proposed merger of the worst performing regions.
Deputy chairman of the House Commission II overseeing domestic governance and regional autonomy, Gandjar Pranowo, said a “partnership approach” in proposing the merger of regions would be needed to overcome likely resistance from local elites and political parties.