Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Illegal Logging and The Money Jungle

The Jakarta Globe, 17th February 2010

Illegal Logging and The Money Jungle

I write in reference to the article “KPK Urged to Fight Graft Surrounding Indonesia’s Forests” (Feb. 5).

For more years than I care to remember, the words “illegal logging” have been inextricably linked to Indonesia. Not immediately obvious to the casual observer is the fact that the European Community/European Union and the British government are part of this problem. Further compounding this environmental and public relations disaster is the matter of tens of millions of euros given to Indonesia by the EC/EU to prevent illegal logging. Perhaps not surprisingly, the EC cannot explain where all this money has gone, much less what good, if any, it has done. There has been no accountability.

The EC is not alone in its carefree attitude to giving away taxpayer money. The British government, in particular, has been throwing its taxpayer money at the Ministry of Forestry for years in the forlorn hope it would halt illegal logging. It has not. What is more, the British government is less than transparent in its own dealings on this subject — after millions of pounds spent, they can claim no victories in forest preservation.

The EC/EU have yet to decide if they want to ban illegal logs from entering their marketplace. The Australian government, no small donor to Indonesia environmental matters, has already taken this step.

By rewarding Indonesia with more money despite an appalling track record in rooting out illegal logging, donor countries are acting recklessly with other peoples’ money as well as fueling graft.

Sean Whyte
Chief executive, Nature Alert,