As part of the Government’s Social Safety Net strategy that has been put in place to provide assistance to those sections of society who have been worst affected by the economic crisis, a number of programs have been designed to provide emergency short term employment opportunities. These programs have been labelled Padat Karya or labor intensive programs.
If these programs are to be a really effective way to channel precious resources to those who are most in need, careful attention must be paid to ensuring that there are proper mechanisms in place to guarantee accurate targeting, to ensure prompt and reliable delivery of funds, and to safeguard against money and resources falling into the wrong hands. All parties seem to agree that successful programs need transparency at all levels, proper accountability, and ways of ensuring that communities are fully consulted in all aspects of the planning and implementation of these projects.
One particular program, the PDM-DKE community fund program currently being implemented by local governments and supervised by Bappenas, has been the subject of considerable public comment and media reporting over recent months. This is not surprising: PDM-DKE is an extremely ambitious program attempting to deliver large amounts of assistance to nearly every region of the country over an extremely short time frame. In this issue of the newsletter we include a summary of a special SMERU appraisal of the preliminary stages of this program, based on investigations conducted in thirteen different locations in four provinces. By way of contrast, we include articles on a number of other aspects of traditional Padat Karya-style aid programs: an overview of a World Bank-financed GOI drought relief program using this approach, and a report on NGO monitoring and participation in SSN programs in one particular province, Nusa Tenggara Barat.
There have been many items appearing in the press in recent weeks reporting cases of malnourishment in various parts of the country, especially affecting young children. We are also aware of anecdotal accounts describing the difficulties facing poor families who are no longer able to afford protein and nutrient-rich foodstuff such as eggs as a regular part of their daily diet. But accurate and reliable data is what is required to verify these reports. In the datasection of our newsletter we are including a summary of the major findings of recent investigations conducted by the widely respected health research body, Helen Keller International, which reveal an alarming decline in the nutritional status of poor women and children in two major urban areas, locations that we know have been deeply affected by the economic crisis. These are preliminary findings but suggest a disturbing trend with important policy implications for Government, community organisations and donor agencies.