Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | 20:17 WIB

Empowering Indonesians with a nutritious food program

Jakarta, IO – President-elect Prabowo Subianto’s proposed programs to provide free nutritious breakfast for children and open wider access for school-aged children to education are, in principle, embedded in the state’s constitutional obligation to improve people’s welfare as stipulated in Indonesia’s Constitution. These two programs can be realized by improving the effectiveness of state budget utilization, through budget refocusing, adjusting program priority scales and narrowing the space and opportunities for corruption. 

The central theme and essence of Prabowo’s two ideas are none other than Indonesia’s human development and the state’s constitutional obligation, which has been used repeatedly as a program but has never been fully realized. These days, the Indonesian Government and society must accept the facts about stunting, about millions of children dropping out of school and about the high maternal-infant mortality rate. This series of problems indicates that Indonesia’s human development has not been implemented elaborately, especially when compared with the development of other sectors. 

Moreover, these facts have stirred widespread concern as well. Just imagine – millions of children are still suffering from malnutrition, and many are unable to continue their education. On the other hand, development in other sectors has enabled the majority of the Indonesian people to adapt to changing times and digitalize various aspects of life today. So, Prabowo’s proposed programs to provide free nutritious breakfasts for children and broader access to education for school-age children are highly relevant. 

The basis for understanding the relevance of Prabowo’s two ideas is Indonesia’s Constitution. Article 34 paragraph 1 of the 1945 Constitution asserts and commands that the poor and neglected children be cared for by the state. This means that the Constitution stipulates the state’s responsibility for fulfilling the basic needs of the poor, including nutrition. The fact is that the years of work to reduce stunting have never produced satisfactory results. 

The state’s obligation to provide education for citizens is affirmed in Article 31 paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution, which states, “Every citizen has the right to receive education”. In addition, Article 28C paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution is highly relevant to the current era, which stipulates that “Everyone has the right to develop themselves through fulfilling their basic needs, has the right to receive education and benefit from science and technology, art and culture, in order to improve the quality of life and for the welfare of humanity”. 

The state’s constitutional obligations will be earnestly realized by Prabowo as the elected president, as he promised during the presidential election campaign several months ago. Despite the pros and cons, Prabowo’s ideas also receive responses from various points of view. The main question is how to fund the program, especially the free nutritious breakfast program. This question has been discussed by many as it is viewed as a costly program, not to mention that the implementation will be complicated. 

Indeed, the two ideas require a massive budget. However, if infrastructure development programs can incur substantial costs, why can’t human development receive the same treatment? The initial calculations estimate a budget of IDR 350-400 trillion to finance the free nutritious breakfast program. The massive budget is due to the program’s target to providing food for 57 million students, including preschool to high school and Islamic boarding school students. Meanwhile, wider access to education for school-age children program can be realized by increasing the effectiveness of the 20 percent allocation of the state budget for education. 

For the president-elect who will be inaugurated in October 2024, challenges in realizing the free nutritious breakfast program are inevitable, especially if the 2025 state budget – for some reason – cannot allocate a budget to finance this program. However, it does not mean that the opportunity is lost. The elected President and his economic team must creatively manage the 2025 state budget to realize priority programs. 

Bambang Soesatyo
Bambang Soesatyo, Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR)

The elected President can choose and implement a few options, such as refocusing the budget, enhancing the efficiency of state budget execution by eliminating unnecessary expenditures, debt scheduling, taking serious actions in eradicating corruption and altering or adjusting the program priority scale. Programs or projects not directly related to improving people’s welfare should be postponed. Budget refocusing includes postponing or canceling business trips and minimizing meeting costs, honorariums, and other unproductive spending or expenses. 

In terms of state budget refocusing, Prabowo’s economic team should learn from experience or case studies from when the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic urged the Government to reallocate and refocus the 2020 state budget. Based on the calculations at that time, the Government needed additional funds of IDR 695.2 trillion for three funding focuses: public health, social protection for disadvantaged groups and support for the business world. Most of the extra funds were from efficiency and budget refocusing in ministries and agencies. 

Another critical point is to minimize and eradicate the opportunity for corruption by making every rupiah of state money beneficial for the people. By diligently eradicating corruption opportunities, the elected president will collect additional power to fund the two priority programs. Thus, the president should encourage the heads of inspector generals in all ministries and agencies to effectively carry out their supervisory functions. 

The state moneys lost due to corruption crimes is immense. From 2004 to 2023, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has handled at least 1,512 corruption cases. Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) data conveys that state losses reached IDR 238.14 trillion over the last ten years (2013-2022). ICW obtained the data based on decisions on corruption cases from the court of first instance to the cassation court. If the tin mining corruption case, which reaches IDR 300 trillion, is handled properly and correctly, the state treasury should be able to collect additional moneys. 

So, referring to existing resources, the programs to provide free nutritious breakfasts and open wider education opportunities for schoolage children can be realized by Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s president-elect. This is not merely because of constitutional obligations but because millions of Indonesian children need it. In 2022, the number of toddlers at risk of stunting in Indonesia was around 4.7 million. One factor that causes stunting is poor nutrition in mothers and children. 

Read: Anies-Ahok

Maternal and infant mortality rates in Indonesia remain high, one reason for which is malnutrition. Maternal and infant mortality data is an indicator commonly used to determine the level of health in a country. The maternal death recording system at the Ministry of Health shows that the number of maternal deaths in 2022 reached 4,005, and it increased in 2023 to 4,129. Infant deaths in 2022 were 20,882, rising again to 29,945 in 2023. 

Poverty has hindered families from serving nutritious food on the table. As of March 2023, there are 25.9 million poor people in Indonesia. These are residents whose monthly expenditure is below the poverty line standard, IDR 550,458 per capita per month. 

In addition to school students, the free nutritious breakfast program is expected to reach millions of impoverished people, to manifest Indonesia’s human development.