For Jokowi, Direct Cash Assistance For Cooking Oil Is The Best Choice For Current Conditions: Whether It Becomes A Burden Or Not, That's A Problem Later
President Jokowi when starting the cooking oil BLT program at the Angso Duo Market, Jambi on Thursday 7 April 2022. (ANTARA)

JAKARTA – The implementation of the Direct Cash Assistance or BLT program continues to receive criticism, but it continues to run. This includes the cooking oil BLT conducted by the Indonesian government under the command of President Jokowi, whose kick-off was held at the Angso Duo Market, Jambi on April 7, 2022.

Although it is considered insignificant in eradicating poverty, BLT remains the mainstay of every power holder to portray concern for people who are in trouble.

"This morning I came to the Angso Duo Market in Jambi City, Jambi Province, in order to provide BLT for Cooking Oil of IDR 300.000 which we hope can alleviate, subsidize the community, especially street vendors who sell fried foods," Jokowi said in a broadcast press Bureau of the Press, and the Media Secretariat of the President.

The government has allocated a budget of Rp6.15 trillion for BLT cooking oil. This amount will be given to 20.5 million families and 2.5 million street vendors who sell fried food. BTL for three months: April, May, June of IDR 300 thousand, Jokowi hopes that it will be completed before Eid 2022 comes.

Packaged cooking oil is now flooding the market after the highest retail price (HET) was lifted. (ANTARA/Adeng Bustomi)

As usual, criticism has sprung up following the implementation of BLT cooking oil. Starting from saying that BLT is like paracetamol, not educating, to mentioning the gaps in corruption.

“The provision of BLT for cooking oil does not mean the problem of rising cooking oil can be solved. Like paracetamol, it only reduces fever, but the main cause of rising cooking oil prices has yet to be solved," said Bhima Yushistira Adhinegara, Director of the Center of Economic and Law Studies (Celios), Sunday, April 4.

Former Deputy Chairperson of the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI), Agus Pambagio also added criticism for the cooking oil BLT policy. According to him, BLT is only a reflection of the government's laziness, a burden on the state, and a loophole for corruption.

"The government should not give BLT. It's just a lazy policy from the government, because it can't think of other policies. BLT is a burden for the state. BLT is also a source of corruption. We've been studying this for decades, but never give up," Agus said on Sunday. April 3rd.

Hard Work Program

BLT is a policy modeled after the Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance) program in Brazil. This program was initiated by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva when he was in power from 2003 to 2011.

But because it was easy and instant, Bolsa Familia was then passed on by the President of Brazil after Lula da Silva, namely Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), Michel Temer (2016-2019), to Jair Bolsonaro who currently leads the Samba Country.

Bolsonaro modified the Bolsa Familia by increasing the amount of money disbursed to each family, and changed its name to Auxilio Brasil. The program will launch in October 2021.

After Brazil became a pioneer, this type of BLT program became very popular. The World Bank welcomed it, and provided funds for borrowing under the Project Family Grant program in 2005.

The BLT program in Egypt is called Minhet El-Osra. (World Bank)

Governments of developing countries are also flocking to imitate it. Mexico has the Oportunidades program, Colombia with Familias en Accion, Chile with Chile Solidario, and many more. In South America, BLT-like programs have been implemented in 18 countries and benefit 25 million families, which is equivalent to 113 million individuals.

In Southeast Asia, apart from Indonesia, the Philippines has also implemented BLT to combat poverty. In the Philippines, BLT is named Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps). This program started in 2007, and is still being held today.

Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and India are also among the countries in Asia that practice BLT, in addition to the Philippines and Indonesia. Even the superpower United States has practiced BLT, under the name Opportunity NYC (ONYC). The program was discontinued on August 31, 2010, after being run for 2007 to 2010 by the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.

Wrong Target and Debt

There were concerns that BLT would be misdirected. When first implemented in 2003, the Bolsa Familia strayed far from the mark. As many as 49 percent of the beneficiaries were not in the category of poor families. In Mexico it is even more chaotic, because 70 percent of the beneficiaries of the Oportunidades program are not poor families.

When BLT was practiced in Indonesia during the SBY administration, mistargeting also occurred. One case was in Tualang District, Siak Regency, Riau in 2013 for example. The rate of mistargeting of the provision of BLT reached 70 percent. This figure is based on research at the University of Riau.

BLT in Indonesia is also associated with the source of funds used. Chairman of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) 2004-2009, Anwar Nasution, once issued a controversial statement about the source of BLT funds during the SBY era.

The former chairman of the BPK, Anwar Nasution, once said that the BLT funds came from debt. (AMONG)

“Directly or indirectly, it is true that BLT is a debt. It's just that the main thing now is not the origin, but the use," said Anwar in 2009.

The SBY government through the Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani denied Anwar's statement.

"I emphasize that the BLT funds do not come from debt, but from compensation for the increase in fuel prices," said Sri Mulyani at a press conference at the Office of the Directorate General of Taxes on June 14, 2009.

The cooking oil BLT funding is said to come from the social assistance budget in the National Economic Recovery Program (PEN) due to the impact of COVID-19. There has been no statement that the COVID-19 social assistance funds used for cooking oil BLT came from debt. This possibility exists, because the World Bank continues to boost the Project Family Grant loan, which is fully supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan.

Despite the many criticisms, there are also proponents of cooking oil BLT. One of them is the former Minister of Finance of the United Indonesia Cabinet Volume II 2013-2014, Chatib Basri.

"I think the government's move is correct by letting the price follow the market and then giving BLT, because the burden of BLT is smaller than if it subsidizes all goods," said Chatib during the Indonesia Macroeconomic Updates 2022 discussion in Jakarta, Monday, April 4.

The implementation of BLT in all corners of the world always invites controversy, but this program is still popular today. Even President Jokowi, who once criticized SBY's BLT, is now adopting it.

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