A Wrong Shortcut
Building permits and environmental impact analysis are still needed for infrastructure development. The process must be simplified.
THE government’s plan to abolish building permits (IMB) and environmental impact analyses (amdal) makes no sense. If it goes ahead, this plan will worsen environmental damage and reduce the suitability and safety of buildings.
The idea of abolishing the IMB and amdal was first announced by Minister of Agrarian and Spatial Planning Sofyan Djalil, who believes that the complicated administrative process and bureaucracy involved in processing permits has stifled investment. He says that the obligation to produce an environmental impact analysis can be bypassed if the business plan is in an area that already has a detailed spatial use plan (RDTR), provided this plan includes a strategic environmental study.
The problem is that of the 2,000 regencies and municipalities across Indonesia, only 53 have produced a detailed spatial use plan in the last 5 years period, and the quality of the RDTR in a number of areas is open to question. The most concrete example is the RDTR for the city of Bandung, which resulted in the North Bandung region changing from a green zone, or environmentally protected area, into an area for housing.
A strategic environmental study will also not automatically replace the amdal document because a project needs evaluation after it is complete. The planning, implementation and oversight are crucial elements in regional municipal planning. At least these three stages are reflected in the IMB and the environmental impact document.
The value of the IMB and amdal must not be underestimated. We must not view these two permits simply as administrative requirements or procedural problems. The IMB and amdal must be regarded as means of applying the principles of caution in the control and management of the environment in the interests of protecting people’s livelihoods.
Admittedly the process of obtaining the permits in a number of regions is complicated and protracted. On top of this, there is a large number of related subsidiary rules. It is true that the length of time needed to process the IMB and amdal has led to investors leaving Indonesia. More than a few property foreign property companies have not gone ahead with the construction of apartments after discovering the complex nature of the permit process, while local companies have not been reluctant to hand over money to ensure that permits are granted.
According to a study by the Jakarta Property Institute, businesses need to comply with 39 regulations to build a multistory building in Jakarta. They have to deal with a number of different institutions, from the National Defense Institute to the Safety and Fire Prevention Agency. It is no surprise that the obtaining of the permit for a building of more than eight floors and an area of 5,000 square meters takes 21 months. Compare this with Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, where the process takes a maximum of 12 months. The whole permit process in Jakarta costs US$7,600, while in Ho Chi Minh City it is only US$696.
But the complexity of the permit process that slows investment must not be used as a reason to abolish the IMB and amdal. To reduce the burden on the business world, the government must simplify the mechanism for applying for an IMB and amdal, but without compromising on the environmental aspect. The quality of an accurate amdal must remain the main priority.
A permit to construct a building and an environmental impact analysis are two key elements used to inform the process of planning and developing a region. These two permits must remain an absolute requirement.