Poor No More

The Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) registered 35 million people—out of the country’s 237 million population—as living below the poverty level. Affected local governments have sought different and innovative ways to find the right solution to their particular problem. In Enrekang, South Sulawesi and at Boalemo, Gorontalo, community leaders are trying out a ‘live-in’ program in which relevant officials stay for a period of time with poor families, in order to understand their basic needs. In the Sinjai district or South Sulawesi, the local authorities are funding small-scale businesses in an attempt to get entrepreneurship going. On the occasion of the International Day for Poverty Eradication on October 17, Tempo English Edition reports on the effectiveness of such poverty-oriented projects in Sulawesi.

Goat farming, one of the ways to help people out of poverty in Enrekang, South Sulawesi.

HAWATI hastily shooed outside the hens running about on the raised floor of her home. After that, she swooped on the dirty clothing scattered about in the corners of the house—and cleaned the space up as well as she could. An important guest was then about to spend the night in her house. “I became confused and afraid, to the point I found it hard to sleep,” she told Tempo on Monday, two weeks ago. This widow whose husband passed away a year ago felt that the 3 x 4-meter house on stilts where she lives was  not a fitting place for Nurhasan, deputy regent of Enrekang, South Sulawesi, who had been intending to visit her there for some time.

Hawati says her house has very limited  facilities : It has no toilet, her source of water is far away, the family living there sleep in the same room as their hens. “I did invite Pak Nurhasan to stay instead at my parents’ house, which is larger,” she said. Nurhasan, however, refused. He is carrying out his local government’s mission. Which is: to sleep in the homes of locals to better understand their true living conditions, “By actually going there, I can’t be misled any more,” he said.

No special meal had been prepared at Hawati’s home at Buntu Kiki Hamlet, Curio subdistrict, for the esteemed guest when he arrived. Just a glass of hot coffee to accompany their chat.Nurhasan told Tempo that Hawatiwas initially very reticent to speak. But slowly the mother of four began to tell her story. Haltingly, she explained that what she earned came only from helping out with the harvesting in the paddy fields or from working the family’s fields. Their discussion continued until late at night. Nurhasan asked Hawati for permission to sleep outside on the verandah, on a mat, without a pillow. “I can sleep well here,” he said.

From his experience when sleeping in the home of this poor family, Nurhasan then decided to help Hawati by giving her four goats to raise. Fortunately, there is plenty of land there for growing animal feed. “Some poor families have an extraordinary spirit, but they remain powerless in the situation they find themselves in. they do need to be helped,” he concluded.

Chaerul Latanro, Head of the Office for Management of Regional Finances and Assets (DPKD) had a different experience. He spent the night in the home of Ambe Odo, 70, in Galonta village, Enrekang subdistrict. While mixing with the family, Chaerul saw that Udin Angga—Ambe Ondo’s son—had a talent for electronics. “I decided to help out by giving him the wquipment worth Rp 4.3 million he needed to reapir electronic gear,” he said.

When we met him in his home on Monday, two weeks ago, Angga was busily fiddling with a customer’s television set. “I feel I have been greatly helped,” he said. He charges from Rp 50,000 to Rp 300,000 for his services. In a month he can now earn anywhere from Rp 500,000 to Rp 1.2 milion.

From early this year the Enrekang regency local government has instructed all itsLocal Government Work Units (SKPD), Local Government-owned businesses (BUMN), regents and their deputies to personally get involved in assisting 67 disadvantaged households. Each family that is helped is given a time limit of 1.9 years to become selfsufficient. If they have not by then succeeded, even though their facilitator has done his utmost, “that family will be released from the assistance program,” said Enrekang Regent La Tinro La Tunrung.

These efforts of the Enrekang Regency to improve the system of poverty eradication have been ongoing since 2004. The first thing that was done was to straighten out the population data. “I didn’t just want to know how many people we had, but I also wanted to map their problems,” said La Tunrung. The results of this data collection showed there are two types of poor people living in the regency. Namely, those who are productive and those who aren’t. both need to be handled differently. “Those who are productive we metaphorically give a line to fish with, and to those who  aren’t productive we give fishes,” said Umar T. Head of its Office of Social Services, population Matters, Manpower and Resettlement, explaining that this ‘fishing line’ could take  the form of agricultural facilities and business capital. While the ‘fish’ could be direct assistance in providing daily necessities and renovation of their homes.

To ascertain the right amount of ‘set up’ capital needed for the people of productive age, the Enrekng officials agreed to stay with these poor families in their homes. “The idea originated from discussion among ourselves,” said Umar. Staying with the families, he said, is necessary so local governments can know locals’ problems precisely and can then look for the right solutions. The funding contributed comes from the pockets of the officials themselves and as well as from voluntary contributions from the employees of each SKPD.

What degree of success has so far been achieved? “The economic situation of several families has already improved,” said La Tunrung, who considers his program has been quite successful. Several of the families Tempo visited also acknowledged its benefits. One of these was the Sidang Sudding family that has been assisted by  the Office of Social Welfare, Population Matters, Manpower and Resettlement.

They now have a constant income ranging between Rp 150-300,000 per month from selling their wares in a small stall. “Since we’ve started trading, our family has been financially helped quite a bit,” said Rapiah Sidang’s wife. The 44-year-old related how they had been given stock to sell worth Rp 4-5 miliion. The success achieved by several other families, for instance those raising goats, still cannot yet be measured. “The plan is to evaluate it at year’s end or in January 2012 at the latest,” said La Tunrung.

Development Sociology Expert from Hasanuddin University, M. Darwis, regards the program positively. “At least local officials will get to know exactly what the poor really need. To date the assistance given has always been uniform, so poverty eradication programs have not been very successful,” he said.

Umar confirmed that to date many poverty eradication programs in the regency  have failed because they were not properly targeted. “After the assistance ran out, the people went back to suffering,” he said. Between 2004 and 2009, assistance from the  central government was sent in the form of goats to more than 1,700 families. “However, not everyone knew how to look after them properly,” he said. Assistance in the form of business capital also often fails because of lack of supervision, “Many people just end up spending the money with nothing to show for it,” said Umar deploringly.

Because of all that, RegentLa Tunrung is determined to continue his program and has submitted the budget for  it to the local parliament, or DPRD. “Their response was positive. They only stressed that the assistance to the poor should be extended to all such families throughout all our subdistricts,” said La Tunrung. Thus far, poverty eradication in Enrekang regency has only been carried out in Curio subdistrict—to make it easier to control.

What are their further plans? Ten families will he helped in each subdistrict, or around 120 families in all. The assistance provided to each family, La Tunrung says, will be at least Rp 5 million. “If we help 120 families, Rp 600 million will be needed, and I believe (that amount) is not beyond our reach,” he said.

Darwis, however, reminds everyone that if this program is budgeted for in the local government budget (APBD), supervision will then be needed. “It shouldn’t leave any room for corruption,” he said. He added that the parameters of success should not just be viewed from the reduced numbers of those in poverty, “But this success must be able to be seen directly from its implementation in practice,” he said.

***

One of the houses that goverment officials in Enrekang, South Sulawesi must inhabit.

Poverty is still a major problem here. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that Indonesia currently still has around 35 million poor or 13.33 percent of its total population of around 237 million or so souls, from the latest figures.

To overcome this complex problem, several regional governments have issued diverse innovative policies. In Boalemo regency—one of the five in Gorontalo province—the provincial government has adopted a similar program to that in Enrekang. Tahat is, all its officials are required to spend one night in local people’s homes. “They have to feel what the daily lives of the poor are like, at least so it will touch their hearts,” said Boalemo Regent Iwan Bokings.

The results of this ‘live-in’ have led the Boalemo local government to this decision: free assistance by providing healthy housing and education for all disadvantaged locals. In Sinjai regency, South Sulawesi, the method is different again. There the local government is trying to assist in the development of 100 small and medium-scale industries, “We can reduce the level of unemployment by 60-70 percent,” Sinjai Regent Andi Rudiyanto Asapa told Tempo.

Development Economics expert and Economics Professor at Hasanuddin University, W.I.M. POli believes that live-in programs such as those practiced by officials in Enrekang or Boalemo are a good beginning. “Nevertheless, to get the most out of them, they need facilitators who listen, understand and  will overcome problems jointly, and not (just) dictate what is to be done,” he stressed.

Rapiah, 44, in front of her stall built with Enrekang government assistance.

Live-in programs such as those practiced by officials in Enrekang or Boalemo are a good beginning.

He has observed that to date local governments have tended to only intervene through external incentive factors such as direct cash handouts, rice for the poor, granting low-interest loans, public health facilities and education, as well as physical facilities. “Usually such assistance in not useful because of the presence of internal obstructive factors,” he explained.

The obstructive factors he referred to lie in the mindsets of the poor; for instance, in their attitude of passive acceptance of their lot, their large families, low work ethic and lack of self confidance and self esteem. Poli says that while  the external incentive factors may be large, the obstructive factors are just as large, so programs are not  then likely to succeed. To reduce these obstructive factors, he says, the government needs to listen better and understand what the poor actually need.

Poli went on to say the government must also know what the community really needs, “Don’t be like in the story of the monkey, which, when it saw a flood coming hurriedly helped a fish by carrying it up to the top of a tree,” he said, giving this analogy.

The need for close supervision is another factor local economists have repeatedly strongly pressed for. “This is needed so there won’t be any more protracted poverty,” said Indri Afriani Yasin, Program Manager for Women’s Institute for Research and Empowerment of Gorontalo (Wire-G). Poli stressed that the obstructive factors cannot be overcome in the space of only one to two years. In this process, the poor need assistance and close but wise supervision. Darwis added: “Sustained assistance is what will awaken their spirits so they will want to change.” (by Irmawati,  Majalah Tempo English Edition, October 19-25, 2011. Outreach, hal 1-5)

1 Comment

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