The Wrong ShortCut
President Joko Widodo changed the posture and the details of the state budget using a presidential regulation. He should have issued a new regulation in lieu of law.
PRESIDENT Joko Widodo should not have shortcut the regulations when amending the State Budget in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although swift decision-making is a crucial factor in dealing with a crisis, the president should use the proper procedures of governance.
So far, Jokowi has not taking the right measures. He issued Presidential Regulation No. 54/2020 on the change to the posture and details of the 2020 financial year state budget. This regulation was based on Article 4 paragraph 1 of the 1945 Constitution concerning the president holding the power of government and Government Regulation in Lieu of Law (Perpu) No. 1/ 2020 on state financial policy and the stability of the financial system during the corona pandemic.
There are two reasons why the issuing of this presidential regulation is inappropriate. Firstly, there is the use of a Perpu as its basis. This means that the presidential regulation is positioned as an implementation regulation of a Perpu. However, a Perpu must obtain the approval of the House of Representatives (DPR). If the House rejects it—although this is only a very small possibility given that the majority of politicians at Senayan support the government—the presidential regulation will have no standing. Everything that the government has done under it can then be questioned.
The second reason is that it detracts from the constitutional right of the DPR to determine the state budget together with the government. As a result, this change of posture and details of the state budget cannot be implemented using a presidential regulation, but only by law. In a crisis situation, the president can amend the budget by issuing a Perpu. With a Perpu, the checks and balances mechanism can still continue. The DPR can evaluate the changes and the president does not ignore the law.
The government does need additional funding to deal with the corona pandemic. This is to be obtained by reducing the budgets of a number of ministries and agencies. These reductions in funding are not always well-targeted. For example, the budgets of ministries and agencies that are active in developing research and creating innovations to battle Covid-19, such as the ministry of research and technology/national research and innovation agency, have been cut. The government should be increasing the budget of this ministry because it is active in developing ventilators, lab test equipment and vaccines to fight the coronavirus.
Another budget item, the funding for the initial phase of moving the national capital, has not been reduced. According to the website of the Electronic Procurement System Service, National Development Planning Agency, Rp85 billion has been set aside for “Drawing up of the National Capital Master Plan and Development Strategy.” The funding for this pet project does not reflect the current crisis. Because of the use of a presidential regulation, these improperly targeted changes cannot be controlled.
It is right to say that Government Regulation in lieu of Law No. 1/2020 is not a ‘clean sweep Perpu’. It cannot become the basis for the government to amend the State Budget Law as it pleases. Although this is a crisis, the president must abide by the law. In order to change budget allocations, the president could issue a new Perpu. Once again, with the current political composition of the DPR, the government will have no problems obtaining approval.
The president should follow the proper procedures. If not, he could be accused of violating the Constitution.