A Birthday Bash for the House
Ezra Sihite & SP/Robertus Wardi
The House of Representatives will get nearly Rp 3 trillion ($314 million) to cover its operational costs next year, a figure that House Speaker Marzuki Alie defended by saying it was just a drop in the overall state budget of Rp 1,600 trillion.
“It’s less than Rp 3 trillion for the House’s operational costs. Remember, this is a state institution and Rp 3 trillion is nothing compared to Rp 1,600 trillion,” he said.
Lawmakers have been criticized for their poor performance and spotty attendance despite the huge budget allocation and the many facilities they enjoy. The House will likely miss its legislation target this year, with 38 pieces of draft legislation still being deliberation.
The House and the government set the number of priority bills at 64 this year, but with nearly eight months of the year gone, just 26 have been passed, including eight that required little deliberation, such as the adoption of presidential decrees and the ratification of international conventions.
“There are still 38 bills that are in the works out of the 64 priority bills for 2012 and the House is very serious about meeting the target,” Golkar Party lawmaker Nurul Arifin said last week.
Nurul pointed the finger of blame at the government, saying it was unwilling to sit down with the House and compromise to meet lawmakers’ demands. He also accused the government of trying to grab more power in some of the proposed bills, protracting the deliberation process.
Draft legislation in the pipeline, Nurul said, includes bills on notaries, international cooperation, the legislature, villages, regional elections and new autonomous regions.
But Nurul also acknowledged that deliberations sometimes stalled over less political or policy reasons, like the absenteeism of some legislators.
“If only they were diligent, we might at least come close to our target, but you can see from their attendance records that the exact opposite is happening now,” the Golkar lawmaker said.
The House has struggled to overcome the attendance problem, proposing at one point installing an electronic fingerprint system to take attendance. The proposed system died after a majority of lawmakers came out against it. Recently, the House increased the number of assembly meetings from once to twice a week to try and pass more legislation.
Former House Speaker Akbar Tandjung said lawmakers deserved a good grade for carrying out their supervisory function over administration policies, but needed to improve on legislation and budget control.
“It’s enough in terms of the supervisory function, as reflected in the various decisions they’ve made,” said Akbar, who was at the House to attend a gathering to mark the 67th anniversary of the legislature.
He called on lawmakers to produce more laws, and better-quality laws to prevent them from being brought to the Constitution Court for review. He also said lawmakers needed to do a better job of controlling state budget allocations to ensure the money improved people’s lives.
“Subsidies remain high. The subsidies for fuel and electricity reach Rp 300 trillion from a state budget of Rp 1,500 trillion,” Akbar said.
He said too much of the state budget was used for civil servant salaries, routine spending and to pay offshore loans.
Anis Matta, a deputy House speaker, defended the legislature, saying criticism was aimed at individual lawmakers, not the institution. He said the House played a vital role in producing important legislation.
“Many of the products that came out of here changed the face of this republic,” Anis said.
But he did acknowledge that lawmakers could do better when it came to passing new legislation.
Saan Mustopa, a member of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said the legislature had lost credibility with many people, a situation he blamed on the attitudes of some lawmakers and poor performance.
“It’s important for lawmakers to improve their performance and watch their behavior because they affect the institution,” he said.
Only 350 of 560 lawmakers attended the plenary meeting to mark the legislature’s anniversary on Wednesday.
Some of those who attended the meeting left before it was closed.