Editorial: City Needs to Focus on Smarter Spending
The Jakarta Globe, Jakarta - 29/12/2010
There is no denying that Jakarta is in serious need of upgrading. As we close 2010, the city faces a host of challenges that will require planning, effort and long-term vision to overcome.
Jakarta’s problems range from traffic gridlock and chronic flooding during the rainy season to poor waste handling and ineffective garbage disposal, unreliable and inadequate public transportation and much more.
However, money, it seems, is not the problem. It is just that the disbursement of the budget remains inefficient. Governor Fauzi Bowo said this week that only 76 percent of the 2010 regional budget, or Rp 20.3 trillion ($2.2 billion) out of Rp 26.71 trillion, had been used. The rest, which could have paid for the development of a number of projects for the benefit of residents, was left idle.
“I expect the disbursement to be at least 79 percent by the end of this year,” he said, without giving details on where funds had been allocated. Last year, the city disbursed only 81 percent of its annual budget.
Fauzi said this would be a lesson for the future. He said, for example, that the city administration could accelerate development projects by preparing tenders before the budget year began. This, he said, would allow projects to start earlier.
But before the governor goes out and spends the money, he should also set priorities for program areas that are urgent.
The top of the agenda must be infrastructure. Whatever has been already planned is merely catch-up. But this is an opportune time to make long-term plans and to redraw the city map so that in 20 years, Jakarta can boast modern, world-class infrastructure. The governor should also remember that in order to develop its full potential, Jakarta must work closely with surrounding cities and regions. These areas are all interconnected, so trying to go it alone will only result in unbalanced, uncoordinated policies.
Second, there must be quality education, not just a focus on the quantity of schools. Upping the standards for education and teachers is crucial if we are to have a highly qualified work force. We must move away from rote learning and create a system that is global in nature and outlook.
The government must also invest in health care, and it must do so with the full participation of the private sector. To address this issue, the government should allow the private sector to address the supply side of the equation. This will lead, in the long term, to better quality health care, better service and much lower costs — not to mention greater efficiency and reduced corruption.
Finally, the government must reduce taxes. This will spur investment. Lower tax rates will also encourage entrepreneurship, creativity and risk-taking, and give small and medium enterprises a kick start. By focusing on these issues, it will be money well spent.