Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Ministry Blames Budget for Poor Forest Oversight

Personal note:

There is only one person to blame - Minister Kaban.


Arti Ekawati The Jakarta Globe

June 16 2009

After being criticized for doing little to protect the country’s forests from illegal logging and mining, Forestry Minister MS Kaban on Tuesday said that part of the problem was the ministry’s limited budget for oversight of the country’s vast forest areas.

Critics, however, said Kaban was trying to blame money woes for mismanagement rather than admitting his ministry’s failings.

Speaking at the opening of the ministry’s coordinating meeting on forest development for 2009, Kaban said many forests had been neglected without proper management, with timber being stolen and illegal operators running mines. “Often there are mining operations in forest without licenses to use the land,” Kaban said.

Kaban said the ministry had received a very limited budget to implement its programs. He said the government had only allocated Rp 3.1 trillion ($304 million) to Forestry Ministry for this year.

With some 36.6 percent of the budget, or about Rp 1.13 trillion, going toward routine spending, the ministry only has about Rp 1.97 trillion left to manage forests across the country.

With such a small amount of funding, Kaban said the ministry had to manage 138 million hectares of forest, including natural and conservation forests as well as industrial forests, with about Rp 14,000 of spending per year for each hectare.

“What do people expect from us? The budget allocation is really not enough,” Kaban said, without stating the ideal amount of funding for forest oversight.

Apart from a lack of funding, poor coordination between the central government and regional administrations is also causing conflicts over land management, Kaban said. For example, an area designated as natural forest by the ministry could be declared suitable for plantations or mining by a regional government.

These conflicted areas are mostly located in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Kaban said that in North Sumatera alone there were about 240,000 hectares of forest with overlapping land management between regional administrations and the ministry.

“As a result, investors are reluctant to put their money in Indonesia. We have to manage forests more seriously in the future,” Kaban said.

Commenting the minister’s statements, Elfian Effendi, executive director of forestry nongovernmental organization Greenomics, said the ministry should not blame a small budget for its failure to eradicate illegal logging.

“Forest management and conservation are not dependent on budget allocation. It mainly relies on the government’s political will to protect forest areas,” Elfian said on Tuesday in Jakarta.

Elfian said that regional administrations along with 18 government agencies, including the National Police and the Forestry Ministry, were obliged to cooperate against illegal logging. “With coordination, it can be done even though the budget is limited.”

According to Elfian, there are a total of 50 million hectares of land designated as natural and conservation forests across the country, with 10 million hectares of that already cleared because of illegal logging and mining or conversion into unlicensed plantations.