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Jakarta Post

Jokowi'€™s merging of environment, forestry ministries scorned

  • Hans Nicholas Jong

    The Jakarta Post

Batam   /   Fri, October 24, 2014   /  10:05 am

President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s vow to protect the environment has come under question following his plan to merge two complimentary entities, the Forestry Ministry and the Environment Ministry, into a single ministry.

A conservation group, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said on Thursday that the plan would be a setback to the country'€™s effort to improve the management of the environment, as the monitoring function of the Environment Ministry may diminish as it merges with the Forestry Ministry, one of the subjects of the monitoring.

Walhi chairman Abetnego Tarigan said that the two ministries were almost antagonizing in nature since the Forestry Ministry tended to focus on the exploitation of forests while the Environment Ministry focused on preserving the environment.

'€œAmid the [backward] paradigm of exploitation in our country, combining exploitation and conservation authorities into one body does not guarantee balanced decision making,'€ he told The Jakarta Post.

Therefore, it was feared that the new ministry would produce policies in favor of exploitation rather than conservation, according to Abetnego.

'€œThe paradigm is influenced by the point of view that conservation is costly while exploitation is a source of income to the state,'€ he said.

Likewise, Greenpeace Indonesia chairman Longgena Ginting said that the focus of the ministry might be skewed toward exploiting forests.

'€œThis idea of merging is worrying because the Environment Ministry could become a part of the portfolio of the Forestry Ministry, as the first'€™s roles and authorities are smaller and more limited than the Forestry Ministry,'€ he told the Post on Thursday.

Another thing that might be problematic in the future is the fact that the Environment Ministry is in charge of monitoring unruly public officials authorized to issue forestry permits and file lawsuits against them, while the Forestry Ministry who issues permits.

'€œNo one will assume the watchdog role in the future,'€ Abetnego said.

Longgena also pointed out the fact that environmental issues were not limited to forestry.

'€œThere are issues in other sectors, such as maritime,'€ he said. '€œThe plan might marginalize environmental issues.'€

Abetnego, meanwhile, said that the plan might cause people to think narrow-mindedly about the environment.

'€œWhy isn'€™t [the Environmental Ministry] being merged with other natural resources sectors?'€ he said.

Abetnego also said that it was too risky to merge the two ministries seeing as how any decisions made by the new ministry would be heavily influenced by the appointed minister.

The plan to merge the two ministries was spelled out in a letter sent to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, in which Jokowi proposed additions or alterations to the nomenclatures of the ministries in his administration.

According to Abetnego, the plan contradicts Jokowi'€™s vow and commitment to strengthen the institutions related to the environment.

'€œThe President has failed to comprehend the essence of strengthening and is trapped dealing with the number of ministries promised in the Cabinet. If the two ministries are not merged, then the number of ministries will be higher than those during former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono'€™s era,'€ he said.

Furthermore, during a meeting with Jokowi in May, Walhi suggested that he keep the two ministries separate while increasing the authority of the Environment Ministry.

'€œTherefore, we urged the House to reject the plan and call on the President to cancel the plan,'€ Abetnego said.

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