Monday, 2 November 2009

Zulkifli Hasan vows to live up to his political contract

Benget Besalicto Tnb. , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 11/02/2009

Having been in the position for two weeks, new Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan seems to be trying to deal with any public's doubt might be incapable of managing his portfolio, by repeatedly reiterating his targets during his next five years.

He stresses his priorities will be the development of production forests (HTI and HTR), mitigation of forest fires, to tackle illegal logging, synchronization of overlapping regulations affecting forest sites between central government and regencies, and the strengthening of forest industry institutions.

"We target to develop at least 500,000 hectares of HTI and HTR per year. We urgently need such development to compensate for the declining production of logs from natural forests while the needs of forest-based industries are increasing," said the 47-year-old minister.

Data from the ministry of forestry shows that from 2004 to 2008, wood production from natural forests had decreased from 25 million cubic meter to only 7.4 million cubic meters.

During the same period the production of logs from HTI and HTR, excluding those developed by pulp and paper industries and those from the rejuvenation programs of plantations only increased from 10.3 to 24.5 million cubic meters.

Data also showed deforestation increased between 1997 and 1999, from 1.8 to 2.8 million hectares per year. But since 2000, the ministry claims deforestation had decreased to just 1.08 million hectares per year.

Zulkifli said he would address the problem of illegal logging and accelerate tackling of forest fires.

"We target to reduce the forest fires by 20 percent per year," said Zulkifli, who graduated from Krisnadwipayana University's School of Economy in 1996 and got his master degree in management from the PPM Institute of Management in Jakarta in 2003.

"We'll formulate how we should mitigate the fires in our forests," the father of two sons and two daughters said over the weekend.

He said that the provinces that will become his priorities include South Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Riau, and Jambi.

He acknowledged that the problem of complex regulations could stand in the way of solving the problems he mentioned. "I'm particularly concerned with the overlapping of regulations on forest sites and designated forests (RUTR) as these may vary between regencies and the central government.

"This has happened since the application of the autonomy system which allows regencies to make their own regulations regarding forest zoning," he said.

"Synchronizing the overlapping regulations will be one of my priorities," he said at his inaugural press conference.

According to him, by tackling the problems posed by contradictory regulations and strengthening the structure of institutions governing and managing the forestry sector he should be able to make major progress towards all the targets he mentioned for the next five years.

"I've committed myself to realize the targets. It's set out in my political contract with Pak President *Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono*."

The owner of PT Panamas Mitra Inti Lestari, PT Batin Eka Perkasa (both with interests in production of electronic equipment), and PT Sarana Bina Insani (a travel bureau) also said that he would also cope with temptations and pressures from many sides, particularly businessmen and politicians, wanting to benefit themselves without consideration of the public interest.

"But temptations are always there everywhere. It'll pose no problem to us if we just don't pay attention to them," said the minister, who is also the secretary-general of the National Mandate Party (PAN).