Editorial: Like Cooking Oil, Government Disappears

Editorial Omong-Omong

3 min read

Despite being the biggest producers of palm oil in the world, most Indonesians now can’t afford to buy cooking oil as its price is skyrocketing. The government did take steps to lower the price. But then the cooking oil disappears from the markets. It’s very difficult to get cooking oil now. There are offers online but the prices do not make any sense.

So, where is the cooking oil? Every relevant officials will know where it is but pretend to have no idea, with big businesses being revealed recently to have been hoarding millions liters of it here and there. In Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, for instance, a company owned by  Salim Group, are found to hoard 1,1 million liters of cooking oil.

The government waits for months to address the situation, and like cooking oil itself it seemingly disappears from doing its job of guaranteeing people to fulfill their basic needs.

This is hardly the only torture the current government inflicts on its own people. As people are facing destruction to their livelihood because of the pandemic, they must struggle further with the spike of prices of almost all basic necessities, from rice, gas to electricity.

In the middle of the cooking oil brouhaha, the government is further rubbing the salt to the wound by announcing that workers can’t cash their pension fund (dana JHT) if they have not reached the age of 56. This was announced despite the fact that many people have been dismissed from their job. Most of these dismissed people are young and need the money to survive. Now, they can’t claim the money.

The government said that the money must not be used because it would be for their pension. This is ridiculous. It’s their money and they need it now. They may be dead long before the pension time if they can’t get the money now.

The total of the people’s pension fund held by the government reach Rp 500 trillion (US$35 billion) as we discuss it. We know the previous stories what has happened with such a huge amount lying around to be taken.  So, where is the money? Does it still exist? Has it been stolen by some powerful elites, and brought abroad? This is hardly a coincidence, but will it be used for the development of the new capital?

We don’t know for sure because there has been no transparency. And as in many other cases occurring during this government, there has been no clear explanation that we can trust.

While President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is stubbornly marching on to move Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to Penajam Paser in East Kalimantan that will cost the nation Rp 550 trillion (US$38 billion), almost 30 million Indonesians are living in poverty, struggling every day to even fill their empty stomach just to avoid the pain of hunger, let alone being able to provide their family with enough nutritious meals or send their children to school.

As a result, 7 million children under five-years old have been stunted across Indonesia at the beginning of 2020, with the UNICEF stating that Indonesia is considered to have the fifth-highest number of stunted children in the world despite abundant natural resources and huge fertile lands. Only the world’s poorest nations without natural resources and with cruelest regime allow millions of their children to live in such a miserable life.

Stunting is when a child has a low height for their age due to malnutrition and repeated infections. The dire consequence of stunting could really destroy the future of the children as they could have a poorer immune system, brain function, and organ development their future productivity and threaten the health of their future children.

With the pandemic destroying the livelihood of more and more people in the last two years, the number of stunted children in Indonesia must have been greatly increasing as of now.

The question is why not use a fraction of the 550 trillion rupiah slated for the moving the capital to feed these children with nutritious food? Or why not help the poor families cope with the situation they are facing? With Rp 550 trillion, millions of families can be lifted from poverty, or at least can guarantee them food as they can concentrate on giving their children better education. By using this way, as these families bought food and necessities, such a huge sum of money will be pumped back into the economy, amplifying business sectors to produce more. There is nothing kept, hoarded or wasted.

However, if the money is being used for building the new capital, it will mostly benefit certain elite groups of people – ruling politicians, businesspeople who are close to these politicians and middlemen. They have already obtained contracts or projects within the construction of the new capital. And what will they do with the money? They will send it abroad to countries that will protect their stolen money from the law, preventing it from being used for the benefits of Indonesian people.

But probably that exactly the reason why Jokowi seems to insist on marching on with the plan despite massive protest against it.

Make no mistake, we should support plan to move the capital away from Jakarta as it is not suitable to become the nation’s capital by many standards. But the questions are why do we have to do it now in the midst of the pandemic, and when the money is needed to ease people’s suffering? Why to some random place in East Kalimantan? And why does it need such a huge budget?

As we are waiting for answers, millions of children in this very moment are wondering if they will be able to eat food — any food — just to keep their stomach from the pain of hunger.

Editorial Omong-Omong

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