Stop Transactional Politics, It's Time to End Clientelism Systems and Practices!

President Joko Widodo checks the distribution of food aid from government rice reserves (CBP) during a working visit to the Klumpit Tingkir Football Field, Salatiga City, Central Java, Monday (22/1/2024). (Doc. Presidential Secretariat)

Jakarta, The PRAKARSA – Recently the social assistance issued by the government has been in the spotlight and has received a number of criticisms. Public policy observers stated that the reasons for providing aid ahead of the presidential election were heavily influenced by political interests. 

The price of rice is also one of the reasons for being exaggerated, considering that there will indeed be an increase in early 2024. Public policy observer Ah Maftuchan, explained that instead of providing social assistance, market operations are considered more appropriate for price stabilization.

"It is true that there will be an increase in food prices (rice) of almost 15% at the beginning of 2024, but linking the increase in rice prices to food insecurity is an overstated issue. "The government can carry out market operations to stabilize the price of staple food (rice) and strengthen food diversification, instead of providing social assistance in the form of basic necessities: rice, oil, sugar, etc.," said Maftuchan, Executive Director of The PRAKARSA, Thursday (1/2/2024). 

Furthermore, Maftuchan said, social assistance is prone to corruption and its use is not optimal due to low quality. Not only that, providing social assistance in cash will be more appropriate because it can be used by the community according to their individual needs. 

"Social assistance in the form of goods has been proven to be prone to corruption and prone to not being used optimally by residents who receive social assistance because the quality of the goods is poor. The government can divert social assistance in the form of goods into cash social assistance (cash-transfer) because it will be more targeted and will give citizens freedom in consumption while also having an additional effect on the movement of the economy at the grassroots," said Maftuchan. 

Maftuchan also said that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) was impressed with using social assistance goods (rice and other food) to gain people's sympathy and get compensation from the people. The practice of distributing social assistance directly by the president in various regions has confirmed that President Jokowi is practicing "clientelism" politics, namely a political system based on exchange/transactional relations. As ruler, President Jokowi provides social assistance directly to the people with the hope that the people will provide compensation in the form of political support for his electoral political agenda. As we clearly know, President Jokowi is campaigning for the presidential and vice presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto – Gibran Rakabuming Raka. 

This further erodes the practice of democracy in Indonesia, where the government should actually guarantee the fulfillment of people's basic rights outside of political interests. 

"This "clientelism" system is a bad practice in politics, it threatens substantive democracy as well as threatens the fulfillment of citizens' basic rights. Good political practice is for the government to guarantee the fulfillment of citizens' basic rights regardless of their political aspirations. "The basic rights of citizens must be fulfilled by the government and must not be politicized," added Maftuchan. 

However, in order for accusations of politicization of social assistance to end, President Jokowi needs to stop his own activities of distributing basic necessities. President Jokowi needs to reactivate the Ministry of Social Affairs, related ministries/institutions and Regional Governments and Village Governments to carry out their main duties and functions in terms of procuring goods and implementing the distribution of social assistance. 

"If social assistance for goods continues to be disbursed and uses up hundreds of trillions of budget, there will be potential for inefficiency in APBN management because it will create vulnerability to corrupt practices at the goods procurement stage and at the distribution stage," he said. 

Regarding the social assistance rolled out by the government, namely food aid, Maftuchan said that social assistance would be more appropriately distributed in cash because it could be more targeted.

"Social assistance in the form of cash (cash-transfer) can be chosen as a step to strengthen the resilience of poor people (poor) and almost poor people (near-poor) while also giving them the freedom to choose their basic consumption ingredients," concluded Maftuchan.

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