The Jokowi administration has announced the peat swamp moratorium was delayed to coordinate the issuance of a set of Presidential Regulations to by-pass the parliamentarian process in lieu of the law.
The regulations issued is part of the Agrarian reform and land restoration policy undertaken by the Jokowi administration. It is the most ambitious agenda since 1963 with repossession of land and re-distribution of land what is dubbed by the Jokowi administration as the “New Economic Order”.
Ministry of Environment and Forestry officials, San Afri Awang, Director General of MoEF for Forestry Planology revealed that the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs suggested this policy. The coordinating ministry is led by Darmin Nasution a left-over from the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration.
The administration announced the regulation on the moratorium will be completed at the end of January 2017 which was announced on Monday, 16 January 2017 during the Meeting of Strengthening Natural Resources Management held in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The moratorium on palm oil plantations will be reflected in the in Presidential Instruction on Evaluation and Suspension of Palm Oil Plantation Licenses. A draft has been submitted to Presidential Palace.
The administration is also pushing presidential regulations governing agrarian reform. The president is expected to announce the Presidential Regulation on Agrarian Reform, the Presidential Regulation about Settlement of Land Controlling by Community Who Live inside the Forest Area as part of the Agrarian Reform Object (TORA).
The administration vowed to distribute 9 million hectares of land until 2019. Many political observer view these policies are designed to secure votes in the Jokowi re-election campaign rather than improving the conditions for communities. The economic benefits are uncertain.
The scheme will include certification of 4 million hectares of land, and the rest is in the form of land distribution for agriculture and plantation. The administration also pledged 12.7 million hectares of forests to be managed through social forestry programs.
Experts however are skeptical about the simplification of redistributing state assets by the Jokowi administration. “Case studies in countries like South Africa, even in the Southern states following the civil war show that these policies were complete failures and in fact achieved the opposite effects and increased poverty, “Land flucht” and ecological disasters”, said Jonathan Morton an independent researcher studying Agrarian policy implications. “New Economic Order” are slogans that have a hollow ring for a lot of people who remember the New Order”, he added.
In the New Economic Order the definitions such as Forest Village, Peoples forest, Peoples Plantation Forest, Community Forest and Indigenous forests are included. Expert are increasingly concerned about the socialist concepts introduced to what should be a pragmatic approach.
“The Jokowi administration is attempting to please everyone, and in the end pleases no-one”.
Although all parties agree that the government has to address deforestation, illegal encroachment and ecological concerns, the rush by the Jokowi will destabilize the community relationships and create new power pockets.
Indonesia is facing an increase period of instability, confusing legalities and unfulfilled expectations. Prof. Awang said that TORA and the social forest is the right solution to overcome many of the current problems the administration is facing.
However the eagerness by the Jokowi administration to repossess forest concessions previously allocated by transmigration policies of the Suharto regime will destabilize the communities and could trigger social unrest as seen in the Dayak and Madurese massacres in 2001.
The Sampit inter-ethnic conflict was caused by flawed transmigration policies. Evicting settlers from the transmigration areas in the name of repossessing assets for the states and re-issuing the land to indigenous groups will lead to communal friction and could trigger a new wave of internal economic refugees.
Political observers argue Jokowi’s New Economic Order is aimed to secure the grass-root level support for the president being re-elected. This may not pay off, if local conflicts increase or the economic benefit claimed do not transpire. “Historically speaking, these experiments were economic failures”.
Prof. Awang said that TORA and social forestry are the right solution to overcome forest encroachment conducted by people. However, Prof. Awang said that it still necessary to have a presidential regulation to strengthen the policy.
Awang explained that Indonesia adopting the New Economic Order for land-based businesses. The Jokowi administration wants to shift the management of land to cooperatives as joint small/medium business compare to the conglomerates. These policies are set to fail, argue many.
In the other hand, the official also said concessions which is on the forest areas qualifying for the outlined definitions must be returned to the country. How the New Economic Order applies to privately held concessions remains unclear.
Previously, Abdul Wahid Situmoran, Technical Adviser of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Indonesia, also suggested to apply a type of land use amnesty to create a strong sense of legitimacy as the forest area has been stipulated on UU no 41/1999 on Forestry. The law in itself is controversial.
“The land use amnesty can be inserted on revision of Forestry Law, or even better if it has its own regulation,” he said. He assess that the law enforcement approach conducted by the Government has not been effective.
The economic implications for the paper and pulp and palm oil industry has been felt since 2014. Indonesia has lost its competitive advantage for some time with the government losing important foreign currency income. The drop in the Gini index is impacted as a result of years of neglect by the policy officials.
“However”, one former diplomat and long term expert on Indonesian affairs added, “land repossession, land redistribution and emancipation strategies have a history of failure and sound more like South American socialism than democratic pragmatism. This makes many Jokowi supporters uneasy”.