All that money…for what?

I was browsing through the 2013 budgetary note from the Ministry of Finance and made this chart (sorry, too lazy to translate it into English):

Obvious thing that I wanted to point out is how wasteful we are for spending our money on mostly energy subsidies (fuel and electricity) which amounts to a total of 274.7 trillion IDR. I made an argument about why I’m against fuel subsidies previously on my other post, but this time I’m going to mention a bit about measuring impact. If Indonesian politicians and/or decision-makers finally had some sense to lift the subsidies, would they spend the money wisely into developing good programs for its citizens?

Program evaluations are not something novel for development work – since the taxpayers of the donor countries would like to scrutinize whether the aid money they’re giving goes into the right directions (or else it’s better to be spent in their own countries). And so, the eval wonks should have something similar to the “impact chain” tool to measure whether what they’re doing  is indeed helping the world to be a better place.

So let’s say you want to distribute some boats for some needy group of fishermen, you don’t only give them the boat put perhaps some capacity development to teach them how to fish better (inputs). The tangible output would be the new boats themselves, and the outcomes would be an increase of their catch when they go out to sea, which subsequently lead to an increase to their welfare (impact). Of course this is an over-simplification and the real stuff would involve baseline data, rigorous methodologies, and resources (time, money and the right brains – oh hey, maybe an MPP degree would help). But doing evaluations is indeed a worthwhile exercise because in the end you get to find out which programs deserve to stay and which ones deserve to be terminated.

Now, how often do we hear the results of the program evaluations made by the government (assuming that they are even evaluated)? Do we even know what are all the programs that the government actually oversees?

The thing is, government spending increases year by year, and it is quite a common knowledge for Indonesians that it is usually spent late in the year. Some attribute it to procurement issues, but most of the time it’s just poor planning. And they can’t make better plans if they don’t evaluate the previous programs beforehand.

A Case for the Presidential Plane

I’m not against the idea of buying a Presidential Plane, I’m just questioning whether it is necessary at this point of time.

I’m not against the idea of buying a Presidential Plane, I’m just questioning whether it is necessary at this point of time.

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President SBY is planning to buy a presidential plane, a Boeing 737-800 Business Jet 2, which seems to be a favorite aircraft among State VIPs in other countries. How much? Some estimate from US$ 68 million to US$ 85 million, but we don’t exactly know the actual price, although Sudi Silalahi, the State Secretary said that the government already sealed the deal on December 27, 2010.

Boeing Business Jet
Who wouldn't want to be in this lavish plane?

Some arguments for buying the plane would be for security and economic efficiency, not about foolish pride or showcasing the strength of the Presidency.

Security should be the number one priority, as flying on commercial planes pose a greater threat for security rather than a military-run presidential plane like the US Air Force One. The next question is to ask whether the operational budget will come from the military or the presidential post.

To my knowledge, President SBY travels either by Garuda Indonesia Airways or Pelita Air Service to this date. However, the intricacies of how much SBY and his entourage spend for each time they fly using these planes are not clear. Thus, if economic efficiency were the case, they should lay down the numbers of how much savings will be gained if the government were to purchase its own presidential plane rather than renting to a third-party for each flight (read: a cost-benefit analysis).

I’m sure all of this is public information, no? If they are reluctant to share it then we should be suspicious if there’s any shady transactions behind these deals. For example, aren’t you curious why the plane deal was signed on December 2010, but DPR said they haven’t agreed to anything?

If you look at the interior of the plane (picture above), it’s very lavish. I’m sure SBY or any future president of Indonesia will need that level of comfort because, well, being a President of the second-largest democracy in the world is a tough job, right?

I’m just questioning whether the same amount of money of buying that plane could be put to better use and for more pressing matters for its citizens, i.e. basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, health and education.

If buying the plane is necessary and urgent, the government should really make the case why buying the plane is a priority, rather than leaving its citizens second-guessing why and how much money is actually being used.