Aid Problems in the Villages
The process of collecting data and distributing village funds direct cash aid has been a disordered one. Mishaps can potentially trigger conflict.
LUKMANUL Hakim has been at a loss. When he received the instruction to use 30 percent of the village funds to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19, the village chief of Bantarsari, in Bogor, West Java, was instantly mystified by the list of village residents entitled to aid. “The number of recipients does not match the budget,” Lukmanul told Tempo on April 29.
The aid is called the village funds direct cash aid (BLTD). Overseen by the ministry of villages, development of disadvantaged regions and transmigration, the new social safety net program targets 11 million recipient families. The aid’s total budget comes to Rp22.4 trillion, set aside from the total 2020 village funds allocation of Rp71.19 trillion. The budget size allocated by villages vary at 25-35 percent, depending on the village funds received this year.
The Bantarsari village led by Lukmanul is in the cluster of a 30-percent budget cut to be reallocated for the BLTD. The cluster is of villages with village funds at Rp800 million-Rp1.2 billion. Targeted recipients of the BLTD are residents impacted by Covid-19 in villages not yet given other types of assistance from the government, such as the Hope Family Program, Kartu Sembako (staples card), and the Pre-employment Card. As much as Rp600,000 in aid per family is paid every month from April to June.
The problem is, Lukmanul has only been to distribute the aid to 156 families, although according to his list, 1,940 families are entitled to the BLTD.
Head of the Bogor Regency branch of the Indonesian Village Governments Association, Tini Prihartini, says on average, every village can propose 2,000-3,000 recipient families for the direct cash aid. But only hundreds have been given aid. This condition may cause jealousy among residents.
Along with a number of village chiefs, Tini proposed to Bogor Regent Ade Yasin to further split the direct cash aid, so that more people can be given aid. “The hope is to divide by two or three so that the aid can be given more equally,” Tini said on April 30.
The village chiefs’ wish has also been conveyed to West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil. Emil—as Ridwan is known—confirms the news. According to him, the village chiefs want the BLTD to be given in the quota form. “To be managed using local wisdom so they can make equal arrangements,” Emil told Tempo on, April 30.
THE mechanism for collecting data and distributing the BLTD is regulated under Ministry of Villages Regulation No. 6/2020 issued on April 14. The new regulation alters Ministry of Villages Regulation No. 11/2019 on the 2020 village funds budget priorities. Article 8A in the new regulation names several requirements for receiving aid, such as a family that has lost its source of income or work, not yet recorded to have received various social aid, as well as having family members vulnerable to chronic illness.
Prior, Villages Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar had also issued Circular No. 8/2020 on Covid-19-alert villages and the implementation of employment for cash in villages. According to the regulation, the allocation of direct cash aid for a village fund ceiling of less than Rp800 million is set at 25 percent of the village funds. The allocation for villages with a ceiling of Rp800 million-1.2 billion is at 30 percent. Meanwhile, villages with a ceiling of over Rp1.2 billion receive an allocation of 35 percent. This scheme can be developed to over 35 percent if needed, with the approval of the regional government.
Halim says there is no minimum limit because it is very possible that there are villages that do not need BLTD. The aid of Rp600,000 per month for every family, he explained, has been considered at the palace with economists.
Although the aid has been rigidly arranged, data collection has not run smoothly in numerous regions. Village administrators are confused by contradictory information and nebulous regulations, among others, the Karanggintung village in Banyumas, West Java. For a time, volunteers who gathered the data on potential BLTD recipients referred to the 14 criteria of a poor family determined by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
Using the BPS criteria, said one of the hamlet chiefs of Karanggintung village, Hilmy Nugraha, has caused data collection to not run as well as it could. Today, it is difficult to find families still living in a house with dirt floor, bamboo walls and using firewood for cooking as outlined in the criteria. “Almost none fulfill (the criteria),” Hilmy said. The villages ministry only stressed later that the 14 criteria do not need to serve as reference.
In the Sidomulyo village, Bantul Regency, Yogyakarta, data is collected based on the Bantul Regional Development Planning Agency data. The data, said Sidomulyo village secretary Amiruddin Shafa, is also synchronized with the integrated data on social welfare (DTKS) and does not refer to the 14 criteria of poverty. “In the field, the village administration has verified residents who can be on the list of BLTD recipients,” said Shafa.
But the technical issue of distributing the BLTD has been problematic due to the regulation that aid must be transferred to bank accounts, which means it is necessarily non-cash. Many villagers do not have bank accounts, especially the elderly.
Secretary of the Sukabumi Branch of the Indonesian Association of Village Governments, Tutang Setiawan, says the BLTD distribution scheme causes confusion. The villages have been receiving contradictory information. The regulation that aid must be distributed through bank accounts, for example, contradicts the news that he received, which is that the aid can be distributed in the form of cash payments. “Instructions from the ministry are always rushed,” said Tutang on April 30.
Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency Secretary-General, Misbah Hasan, says incorrect data on recipients of the village funds direct cash aid can open the opportunity for corruption. To prevent aid from being distributed to the wrong people, he urges the government, particularly the villages ministry, to validate and renew field data. “The problem with the data is that, some will feel more entitled to aid than the ones who receive it,” said Misbah.
In an interview with Tempo on April 28, Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar said the data on BLTD recipients uses DTKS’s primary reference, which has been synchronized with citizenship registration numbers (NIK). He admits that the current DTKS requires numerous adjustments, which is why, the data collection being performed by Covid-19 mitigation volunteers in the villages is one of the steps to updating said data, to be reported to the central government. “We knew very well that this would happen,” said Halim.
Dina Mariana, a researcher with the Institute for Research and Empowerment, is not surprised that many village heads are having a difficult time processing their data and distributing the BLTD. According to the institute’s records, many regencies have not yet issued operational guidance and technical regulations.
Dina regrets that the government has misunderstood the villages law, which abides by the principles of recognition and subsidiarity. Village funds, she said, is not being understood as the right of villages. “Its planning and management should be based on the authority of villages,” said Dina. According to her, the recent issuance of a number of circulars and the villages ministry regulation are a form of the central government’s still forceful co-optation of villages.
In response, Halim says the government only provides an outline for the distribution of the BLTD, so that development in the villages can progress in line with the national strategy for development. “The process is still based on village authority through village deliberations.”