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While education and healthcare suffer, Indonesian army budget soars

Publication Date : 18-07-2012

 

While most people in Indonesia have limited access to quality education and health services, the government plans to allocate a large portion of next year's budget to military spending.

The move has drawn criticism of the way the government manages the state budget.

According to the Cabinet Secretariat website, the government has drafted the 2013 state budget, which reveals that the Defence Ministry gets the lion's share of funds, followed by the Public Works Ministry, the Education and Culture Ministry, the National Police, the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Health Ministry.

Citing a draft by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), the Cabinet Secretariat says the government will allocate 76.538 trillion rupiah (US$8.11 billion) of next year's state budget to the Defence Ministry, much greater than the 30.915 trillion rupiah ($3.27 billion) allocated for the Health Ministry.

"The government should have prioritised programmes that directly affect the people, such as education and health, especially because under prevailing laws, the government must allocate 20 per cent and 5 per cent of the state budget to education and health, respectively. I don't think there are any laws that require the government to allocate certain a percentage of the budget to the Defence Ministry," Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) coordinator Ucok Sky Khadafi said yesterday.

Khadafi welcomed the government's intention to raise the budget for defence from this year's 72.5 trillion rupiah ($7.68 billion), saying that such an increase would be necessary to support the ministry's attempt to modernise primary weaponry systems. However, he said it should not exceed the amounts needed for education and health.

Echoing Khadafi, Al Araf of human rights watchdog Imparsial has decried the government's decision to increase the military's defence budget while other countries had reduced theirs due to the financial crisis.

"For me it just doesn't make sense, particularly as the allocation exceeds the government's support for essential programmes, such as education. I'm not saying that the military is not important, but we must realise which one is the most urgent," he said.

He thus called on the government to gradually increase the budget for the military according to the urgent needs within the institution. The welfare of soldiers needed to be prioritised, not weaponry, he added.

"Armed conflicts among countries are unlikely to occur in the near future as the international community has developed a culture of diplomacy. Therefore, I don’t think there is any urgency to modernise our weaponry systems," he said.

Separately, Defence Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin said that the high budget allocated to his ministry was due to an urgency to procure more weaponry and for its maintenance, as well as to improve the wealth of military personnel.

"We are planning to procure more weaponry to support our Army, Navy and Air Force, as has been included in our Administration's Strategic Plan [Renstra] for 2010 to 2014. We, for example, plan to procure fighter jets for the Air Force, submarines for the Navy and tanks and armoured personnel carriers for the Army next year through multi-year programmes," Asrin said.

He added that the ministry would also focus on improving the welfare of military personnel, especially those based in border areas.

"We plan to increase the remuneration of military personnel to meet 40 per cent of the welfare target next year, from this year's 34 per cent, and will gradually increase it to 100 per cent," he said.

 

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