By Gisela Swaragita / THE JAKARTA POST
To combat poverty and improve children’s nutrition intake, the Papua administration will give cash incentives to families with children under 4 years of age in the regencies of Asmat, Lanny Jaya and Paniai. The grant is given under a pilot program named Bangga Papua (Papua’s pride) and financed through the special autonomy fund.
According to Heracles Lang, who designed the cash aid program, every toddler living in one of the three regencies and born after january 2015 to a parent of the Melanesian race is eligible for the grant.
“We chose the three regencies, because they are the ones with the most severe poverty,” Heracles told The Jakarta Post after a monitoring visit in Agats, the capital district of Asmat, on sept. 23.
Heracles is the special autonomy improvement head of KOMPAK, an Indonesian-Australian government program for human development.
The three regencies have become models of geographical challenges that often hamper social security programs in the province. Asmat is located by the shore of the Arafura Sea, while Lannya Jaya and Paniai are in the mountains.
According to Asmat Regent Decree No.149/2018 on Bangga Papua, 50 percent of the children of Melanesia live below the poverty line. In early 2018, Asmat regency was under international scrutiny after almost 80 children died of malnutrition.
Heracles said the grant was designed especially to address the nutrition problem, so that parents could buy nutritious and diverse food to improve their chidren’s diet.
He said every eligible child would receive Rp 200,000 (US$13.43) every month through bank transfer. The first transfer, to be conducted in early December, will be for an accumulated nine-month worth of grants. Afterwards, funds will be received every month until the child turns 4 years old.
Heracles said the Bangga Papua team had worked since November 2017 to register all of the eligible children in the three regencies. The names were then reported to Bank Papua, which created accounts for each children.
To ease the money withdrawal from the bank, on the transfer day, Bank Papua personnel will be deployed to each districts in the regency with military escort to deliver the money.
The program prioritizes mothers over fathers to withdraw the money from the bank.
Heracles said all of the eligible children in Asmat had been registered, while the registry teams in teams in Lanny Jaya and Paniai were still working to complete the list.
Bangga Papua has received much criticism, with people saying such funding would only make the poor lazier and more dependent. Many have also expressed concern that the parents, especially the fathers, may forcefully take the cash from the mother and spent it on cigarettes, areca nuts, alcohol, prostitution or even drugs.
Vivi Yulaswati, the director of poverty eradication from the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), said according to studies cash incentives for social protection should amount to between 16 percent and 25 percent of income per capita to have the desired impact without creating dependency. “We have calculated that the amount of the grant is within the safe range,” she said.
She added that Bangga Papua also helped the government complete the civil registry, which was deemed extremely difficult for Papua.
“Around 79 districts here do not have (civil registry) data. This is a good trick, as through this program, Asmat has registered around 11,200 children. Thus, we can have the data of the people here by name and by address,” Vivi said.
Papua is one of the provinces receiving special autonomy funds. The funds have been granted since 2001 and are planned to continue until 2021, with the hope that Papua can catch up in terms of development with other provinces of Indonesia.
Source: The Jakarta Post