Red tape stymies social aid

For Siti Fatimah, 25, a contract-based elementary school teacher in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, making ends meet has become more challenging lately. With a salary of Rp 1 million (US$63) per month, she resorts to selling phone credit to take care of her family —her father suffered a stroke three years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic has nearly wiped out her extra earnings from the family’s small phone credit business, yet the cost to stock up on food and hygiene products have soared to protect her high-risk father. Her family has taken out loans to survive, even though they may be eligible for government aid.

“I don’t really understand the system. My family and I, even the people living in my area, were never taught how it works,” Siti told The Jakarta Post when asked if her family had heard about the Social Affairs Ministry’s Integrated Data of Social Welfare (DTKS), which provides government aid.

The government has set aside Rp 110 trillion (US$7.68 billion) for social safety net programs to soften the economic blow of COVID-19 on low-income Indonesian households. However, concerns have emerged about red tape hampering distribution efforts.

Bank transfers (BLT) of Rp 600,000 per month for three months will be available for 9 million people outside of Greater Jakarta if they are included in the DTKS but have yet to receive any other forms of government aid. Meanwhile, eligible Greater Jakarta residents will get the same amount in the form of staple food packages.


To be included in a DTKS database, a recipient must submit documents that will have to be verified through various administrative layers, from district heads and regional governments to social affairs agencies and the central government. The verification process may vary in length.

High school student Eka Nanda, 17, said she heard the process could take up to two years. So, to qualify for government funding through the Indonesian Smart Card (KIP) for her university, she applied in advance for the DTKS during her freshman year in high school.

“It’s like a lucky draw,” said Eka, who has yet to be included in the DTKS.

SMERU Research Institute researcher Luhur Bima said the government’s data collection and validation steps tend to be lengthy. Therefore, it needs to implement a better system with more flexibility, especially during the ongoing outbreak, for the data to be continuously updated and evaluated, he added.

“The government shouldn’t rely on just one uniform mechanism; it must use multiple approaches because the people who require social aid face different circumstances.”

The government could try data collection methods from communities or merge DTKS data with data from other institutions, such as education agencies, he said.


President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has stated that in disbursing the immediate aid, he wanted related offices to use “practical methods that don’t hinder the process”. He especially targeted Indonesia’s more than 70 million informal workers, such as traditional market vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers, who account for more than half of the nation’s workforce.

Around 24.8 million Indonesians are considered poor, living on under $1 a day and representing 9.22 percent of the population, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show. According to a World Bank report titled “Aspiring Indonesia”, over 60 million Indonesians are vulnerable to falling into poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic could bring more than 11 million people in East Asian-Pacific countries into poverty as the global economy faces recession risks, the World Bank estimates.

Indonesia’s GDP is projected to grow at a 21-year low of 2.3 percent this year, with a worst-case scenario showing a 0.4 percent contraction, according to government estimates.


Senior development economist Vivi Alatas said the government would not be able to collect data to distribute aid for the millions of people in Jakarta by solely relying on DTKS data.

“DTKS data is a database of poor and vulnerable families. There may not be a lot of them in Greater Jakarta [compared to other regions], but they are the most affected [by the outbreak],” Vivi said.

The former World Bank economist suggested an on-demand application system for individual households requiring help. Vivi also suggested merging DTKS data with other available data, such as that of the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan).

“The most important thing is to keep the people [in affected areas] at home without them having to suffer,” Vivi added.


The Social Affairs Ministry’s director general for social empowerment, Pepen Nazarudin, said that some of the recipients of social aid in Jakarta may not be included in the DTKS as per the Jakarta administration’s proposal.

“Non-DTKS households may receive aid if there is an extra quota,” he said, adding that DTKS-listed people would remain a priority.

Greater Jakarta, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus in Indonesia accounting for around half of the nation’s cases and deaths, has around 30 million residents. By distributing social aid, the government expects the millions of Greater Jakarta residents to refrain from traveling to their hometowns for Idul Fitri, which will likely fall on May 23 and 24.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan took to social media on Saturday to ensure that not only residents with Jakarta IDs can get social aid, but also those who reside in Jakarta but with IDs from other regions.

“If you don’t have a Jakarta ID, please report to your neighborhood and community units,” Anies wrote on his Instagram account. “It is our duty to ensure [everyone] can survive this difficult time.” ( JP / IM )

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