A controversial plan to renovate the House of Representatives complex in Senayan, South Jakarta, including adding new extensions, has been revived by lawmakers who are now pushing for the government to approve the project.
However, the plan has angered many citizens who believe lawmakers have not done enough to deserve the upgraded facilities.
The original proposal to renovate the complex was submitted in 2009 before being rejected by then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said the size of the state budget did not warrant such an extensive renovation project.
The public back then also slammed the idea, criticizing lawmakers for their poor performance – with many photos doing the rounds showing several sleeping in their seats during legislative sessions – and accusing them of rampant corruption.
No More Traffic Jams, Please
A revival of the renovation plan started during President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term and now lawmakers are looking at sneaking the agenda into the 2018 state budget.
Anton Sihombing, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Household Affairs Committee, told reporters on Monday (21/08) that the existing facilities no longer fit lawmakers’ needs. He made special mention of the 10 kilometers between the lawmakers’ official housing complex in Kalibata, South Jakarta, and the legislative complex in Senayan.
The lawmakers are now asking the government to use part of next year’s state budget to build a new luxury apartment complex to replace the one in Kalibata. They also want a new public park, to be called “Democracy Square,” where protesters can gather. Lawmakers further call for the renovation of their offices in the Nusantara I building inside the existing complex, claiming that it is overcrowded and starting to show its age.
Built in 1992, the Nusantara I building was designed back then to accommodate up to 800 people, including 400 lawmakers.
The House currently has 560 members, with each of them allowed to bring in at least two experts and three assistants. From 2019 onward, the number of lawmakers at the House will increase to 575 after the new election bill is passed.
Anton said the Senayan complex has to be big enough to accommodate at least 5,000 people every day.
He said the Household Affairs Committee has conducted studies to compare facilities at other government institutions, including the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and Constitutional Court, and found that they have better facilities than lawmakers.
The lawmaker said people should be more “rational” when criticizing the renovation plan, arguing that the new facilities would benefit not only current lawmakers, but also future ones.
“It’s not good to criticize without looking at the facts. It’s also not good to goad the public to complain about the plan,” he said.
Anton pointed out that in other countries, parliament buildings usually feature super-strict security protocols.
But in Senayan, people can easily enter and leave the House of Representatives buildings.
“This is what I’ve seen whenever I go overseas to visit parliaments in other countries. Even Bangladesh has [a parliament building] that’s better than ours. They screen people at least three times before they enter the building,” Anton said.
He added that lawmakers also want a new museum and library as part of the Senayan complex’s extension plan.
Where Is the Money?
Anton said the renovation plan as proposed by lawmakers will cost Rp 601 billion ($45 million), of which Rp 320 billion will be spent on luxurious apartments and renovations of the Nusantara 1 building.
Trillions of rupiah in taxpayers’ money are spent annually on lawmakers’ salaries and paying for their activities and other needs.
The 2018 draft state budget delivered by President Jokowi on Aug. 16 set aside a total of Rp 5.7 trillion for lawmakers, comprising Rp 3.18 trillion for “institutional strengthening,” Rp 843 billion for lawmakers’ activities and Rp 1.64 trillion for management support and other technical expenses.
Another Rp 51 billion is set aside to pay lawmakers’ expert staff.
According to Anton, the Rp 601 billion required for the ambitious renovation project will be taken from the Rp 5.7 trillion already allocated towards lawmakers in the state budget.
However, local media quoted Askolani, budget director general at the Ministry of Finance as saying on Friday that the 2018 budget draft delivered by the president did not mention anything about the renovation plan.
Deliberation of the next year’s budget is traditionally wrapped up in November, so lawmakers still have time to push their renovation agenda during discussions and hearings with the government until then.
House of Representatives Secretary General Achmad Djuned said the renovation plan is now listed as a priority project, since facilities in the complex, such as the elevators for example, are no longer in good condition and may pose a danger to lawmakers and staff.
According to the renovation proposal, each lawmaker will have their office space extended to 117 square meters from 30 square meters currently to accommodate a living room and meeting room. Each office will also have its own toilet facilities. Lawmakers currently share communal toilets in the Nusantara 1 building.
Would Better Facilities Improve Performance?
Political analyst Ray Rangkuti of civil society watchdog Lingkar Madani has slammed the proposal, citing lawmakers’ poor performance and the low level of trust they enjoy from the public.
During a discussion about the renovation plan in Jakarta on Monday, Ray pointed out that since the original proposal was met with strong public resistance, lawmakers are now trying to tempt them with their plan for a Democracy Square to accommodate public protests. At the same time, lawmakers are testing the water with a new plan for the luxury apartment complex adjacent to the legislature.
“It seems like the [renovation] idea was not the result of a well-planned study. It just sounds like more ‘projects,'” Ray said, alluding to the fact that many corruption cases often involve price markups in major infrastructure projects.
Lusius Karus of election watchdog Concerned Citizens for Indonesian Legislation (Formappi) said he doubts that lawmakers can work more efficiently if they are given improved facilities.
He said lawmakers should not complain about traffic jams in the capital or use them as an excuse for their poor performance. He added that many of them are slow to respond to public aspirations, but move quickly when it comes to meeting their personal agendas.
“Traffic jams shouldn’t be an excuse not to perform at their jobs. Everyone in Jakarta has to deal with them and still arrives at the office on time. Building new apartments near the Senayan complex will not guarantee that their [lawmakers’] performance will improve. We need to change the system and culture in Senayan, not the building,” he said during the same discussion last week.