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Jakarta Post

Government disburses $4.5m in village funds as cash aid for poor families

  • Adrian Wail Akhlas

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 28, 2020   /   08:13 am
Government disburses $4.5m in village funds as cash aid for poor families Farmers plant rice at a paddy field it Tunggulwulung village, Malang, East Java, on April 10. (JP/Aman Rochman)

The government has disbursed around Rp 70 billion (US$4.5 million) in cash assistance for some 116,000 families using village funds to help them cope with the severe economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar said 8,157 villages in 76 districts nationwide had disbursed Rp 600,000 to each registered family through both cashless and cash transfers.

“As we are currently in a national emergency, I am asking regional leaders to facilitate poor families to receive the cash assistance by prioritizing humanitarian efforts,” Abdul told reporters during a press briefing on Monday.

According to Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministerial Regulation No 6/2020, the government has allocated Rp 22.4 trillion from a total of Rp 71.19 trillion in village funds to disburse cash transfers for 12.3 million families affected by the crisis.

The government will provide Rp 600,000 a month for three months to families that meet certain criteria, including whose members have lost their jobs and do not receive assistance from the Family Hope Program (PKH) and the staple-food card program.

Villages with village fund allocations of up to Rp 800 million must set aside 25 percent of the money for COVID-19 cash assistance, while villages with funds of Rp 800 million to Rp 1.2 billion must set aside 30 percent from their budget. Villages with funds of more than Rp 1.2 billion must set aside 35 percent from their budget to provide the cash transfers, Abdul said.

“This does not mean that the villages cannot disburse more funds; they can increase the transfer if needed,” said Abdul. “We are hoping that the disbursement will be smooth as we need to prioritize humanitarian efforts.”

Upon being questioned how the government would oversee the disbursement of cash transfers, Abdul said that the government “trusted village officials and volunteers to oversee the disbursement process”.

Concerns have grown over the disbursement of the government’s social aid program to weather the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the COVID-19 aid funds are misused by state officials, such as regents, mayors, governors or ministers and their respective deputies, it will be difficult because the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] is very procedural; it needs to report to the President in handling those cases,” former KPK deputy chief Mochammad Jasin said on Wednesday, warning that corruption could occur with so much aid being distributed during the current health crisis.

The government has set aside Rp 436.1 trillion for stimulus programs, equivalent to 2.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), including Rp 110 trillion for social safety nets.