Nepotism, corruption prevent financial aid going to poor Indonesian fishermen

Patmi, who is from a poor fishing family, was holding back tears that afternoon while talking to Maritime Fairtrade. In between deboning fish, she said she is not getting the financial aid promised by the government and alleged there is nepotism at work.

In the midst of inflation and the recent increase in the price of subsidized, the issue of financial aid distribution is a hot topic in Indonesia right now.  The government has said it will provide financial aid to the poor, such as Patmi, to help offset the increase.  The price of Pertalite gasoline is now IDR 10,000 per liter, up from IDR 7,650, and diesel is now IDR 6,800 per liter, from IDR 5,150.

Although she has applied a few times previously, Patmi said she is not registered as a beneficiary of government’s aid and companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programs.  She said her family’s income from fishing is only IDR 100,000 per day, she should be entitled to receive aid from all existing programs, whether government or private.

Patmi deboning fish. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo.

“From the beginning of the Covid pandemic, there were many types of aid but I only received a few. The recipient data coordinator always had a ready reason to reject me. He would say there were others who were poorer than me and so deserve the aid more.  However, it is always the same group of people who get all the aid,” said Patmi.

Patmi alleged that the recipient data coordinator, who has the job of recommending who to receive the aid, gave preference to his family members and friends.  She also added that her husband is not on good terms with the coordinator, which might contribute to her application’s rejection.

Financial aid distribution process. Photo credit: Sidoarjo government

Trying to corroborate Patmi’s story, Maritime Fairtrade managed to interview a data collection coordinator.  Because of the sensitivity of the issue, he asked to use a pseudonym.  Budi, a middle-age man, agreed that some of his colleagues still practice nepotism and there is some truth in Patmi’s story.

“Of course, if our family and friends qualified for the financial aid, we will include their names.  However, the amount of aid is limited and there will be people like Patmi who will be left out,” Budi said.

Sometimes, according to Budi, the village head will also seek his help to include the names of their supporters into the aid recipient list.  When that happened, Budi would give priority to the supporters over his family and friends.  So, again, deserving and poor people like Patmi were left out.

Unfortunately, when Maritime Fairtrade tried to confirm the story with the local village head, who had an expression of discomfort and evasiveness, he declined to comment.

Fisherman coming home from fishing trip. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Risna, who is a government employee involves in the distribution of cash to the poor, alleged there is also corruption.

“The approved aid from the central government was at IDR 300,000 but the amount we gave to the poor was only IDR 275,000.  The difference should not be for administrative fee or levy because we do not deduct it for cash distribution to the poor.  It is very odd and suspicious,” Risna said.

The Sidoarjo police said they would arrest anyone who engages in corruption. Through the Saber Pungli Team, the police once arrested a village head who had embezzled IDR 8 million.

Fishermen’s village at Sidoarjo. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Ardito, a researcher from Corruption Watch, Sidoarjo, who together with colleagues oversee aid distribution, said the problem of nepotism and corruption surrounding the distribution process is a classic problem in Indonesia. 

Ardito emphasized: “Both corruption and nepotism are detrimental to the country.  Corruption is a crime but it is not so straightforward with nepotism.  With corruption, there is a loss of public money but with nepotism, the money goes to a different group, who may or may not be more deserving, than the targeted group. Nepotism is hard to prove legally.

“Therefore, the government policy is not effective because the targeted group is not receiving the cash that is intended for them. So, at the end of the day, the poor will still face hardship and do not receive much help.”

Rundown, old fishing boats. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Top photo credit: Pixabay/ Kanenori

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