ELECTED in 2003 and now in his second term, Enrekang regent La Tinro La Tunrung, 55, has actively been involved in helping his people break free from poverty. In 2008, Enrekang district is no longer considered as a disadvantaged area. The poverty rate in the area has dropped from 47 percent of 12,292 persons in 2007 to 8,111 today, “At one time, because of its lack of potential during the 2000s, there was even talk of merging Enrekang with neighboring Toraja,” said La Tunrung.
Some attribute this achievement to his pro-poor policies, a number of them controversial. One of his latest policies is to require civil servants to stay over in poor households. “We cannot bring our wealth to the graves, so, if we have the means, why not help each other now?” he said when asked why he was concerned with poverty alleviation. The former entrepreneur spoke to Tempo reporter Irmawati, last week, about his policies. Excerpts of the interview:
Can youdescribe Enrekang’s poverty?
The poverty rate is quite high because our infrastructure is underdeveloped, the water is not clean and electricity is not readily available. Poor households are spread over our villages and subdistricts. There are many government-devised programs aimed at solving those problems but most of them fail due to lack of data. So the first thing I did back in 2004 was to carry out a data collection. I wanted the information to be axact, with names and addresses of all the marginalized citizens, their families, their condition and the causes of their poverty.
How did you make sure those data were accurate?
The process was hard and we failed on many occasions. Many admitted they were poor because they expected to get help. But at the end, we were able to get accurate data after asking around 3,300 community leader to help us. The process took one year, from 2009 to 2012. We did an in-depth analysis of the community, visiting and interview people along with a tabulation of the data. We found that out of about 12.000 families, more than 8,000 were considered to be below the poverty line.
How dose this data help you in formulating policies?
After collecting the data, we began to look for solutions. The problem is that every poor household is different, which means one solution cannot fix all. To understand the difficulties they experience, we decided to stay in their houses. This is good for leaders like myself, because then we can see how our citizens really live. I also spoke with many of the poor families. The problems lie with their mindset. They are used to asking or waiting for help. So we must push them to start working and stop expecting. One of the ways to motivate them is by visiting, guiding and monitoring them regularly.
You have issued a number of controversial policies. One of them is exempting the poor from paying land and building texas, which was opposed by some people.
Since 2009, poor households are not required to pay texas on their land and their homes. Those who opposed this plan said that every Indonesian citizen has a duty to pay texas. But how can they afford it if they cannot even eat? Furthermore, the total tax for 8,111 poor households is only around Rp 18 million. So I try to look for replacement funding from other programs.
You also refused to issue a permit to build a supermarket.
I’m afraid that supermarkets will kill traditional markets. Some said that supermarkets could provide jobs. But I prefer to develop tradirionla markets in the subdistricts, trying to get them to open every day instead of only two times a week.
How will you ensure that your legacy will live on?
We will try to ratify a regional ordinance which aims to reduce the poverty rate by a minimum of 5 percent every year starting from 2013. (by Irmawati, Majalah Tempo English Edition, October 19-25, 2011. Outreach, hal 1-5)