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Report Card on Quake Management in Indonesia

Updated On: Jun 02, 2006

International aid has been forthcoming, reflecting the rapid response of the international community in the last tsunami disaster.

The United States, which pledged US$2.5 million (S$4 million) to the relief effort, said 100 military doctors and nurses are on the way, carrying surgical, laboratory, dental, and X-ray equipment. Some 22 countries around the world have contributed or pledged assistance to the Southeast Asian country. The Asian Development Bank on Tuesday offered US$60 million in grant and loans to rebuild the affected Indonesian regions. 

But the problems remain not with the aid itself but with its distribution. Indonesia has its fair share of critics and supporters for its handling of the Yogyakarta quake. Internally, within Indonesia, political parties like the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS)’s leader Tifatul Sembiring have launched an assault on the government saying that it is “too slow” to react to the crisis. Such comments have prompted the President to warn others not to politicize the quake event. Aside from the usual politicking, what is more disturbing are talks that, even within the government itself, the quake efforts have become an election contest of sorts. According to the Indonesian media, while relief workers and volunteers race against time to help the survivors of Saturday's quake, there is an impression that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla are racing to win the sympathy of the victims. It is as if the two are nearing an election campaign even though the presidential election is still three years away.

The Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited the affected sites themselves and acknowledged a 'lack of coordination' in aid distribution. He urged government officials to be 'more agile'. He also vowed that all relief funds would be spent on quake victims. 'I have asked (officials), and this has been implemented, that we must maintain transparency and accountability. Don't misappropriate one dollar...', he told reporters.

A strangely-timed release of positive news about the quake and its impact on the economy came amidst the destruction of the quake. The government and the central bank forecast that the earthquake in Yogyakarta and Central Java will have a limited impact on the economy with reconstruction spending making up for economic loss from tourism due to the quake. "There is a plus and minus economic effect from the disaster, especially on the infrastructure and housing side. But if we manage to speed up the reconstruction (work) we expect it will help push economic growth," Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said after a Cabinet meeting.

Some direct input of good news for businesses affected by the quake did come in as well. Bank Indonesia also expressed optimism about the situation, saying it would require local banks to provide facilities to relieve the disaster burden of the local businesspeople in the quake areas. "Loans containing BI liquidity support funds will be written off, as we have done in Aceh. We will also simplify the loan performance assessment to easily restructure the debts if needed," said Central Bank Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah.

Sources:

Are SBY and JK vying for attention in quake efforts? (Jakarta Post, 31 May 2006)

Aid flow picks up but serious problems remain for Java quake (Reuters, 30 May 2006)

ADB offers $60m in grant and loans to quake-ravaged regions (Jakarta Post, 30 May 2006)

Govt "too slow" in responding to Yogyakarta quake: party leader (Antara, 30 May 2006)

President ask public not to politicize Yogyakarta disaster (Antara, 30 May 2006)

Survivors of quake resort to desperate measures (Jakarta Post, 30 May 2006)

Govt says quake to exert slight economic impact (Jakarta Post, 30 May 2006)