Legislators: “Do not stunt the stunting budget!”

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Member of Committee IV of DPR RI Luluk Nur Hamidah. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Member of Committee IV of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”), Luluk Nur Hamidah, regrets the Ministry of Agriculture’s suggestion to slash the budget for programs in regions that are vulnerable to food scarcity and stunting, and refocus the Government budget instead on the mitigation of COVID-19. “I really regret any budget cut for this purpose because it will result in a mess. The budget for mitigating food scarcity was small enough already, but it is going to be made even smaller,” she complained in a virtual Hearing of Committee IV of DPR RI with the General Secretary and Director Generals of the Ministry of Agriculture on Tuesday, 28 April 2020. 

Luluk stated her concern that the budget cut would cause the increase of stunting among the nation’s children in the future. This is contrary to President Joko Widodo’s speech in October 2019, where the Government promised to prioritize the elimination of stunting among children and to reduce the level down to 14%. She strongly doubts that the target can be achieved if the budget for mitigating stunting and food scarcity is diverted. She then suggests that instead of reducing budget for mitigating stunting, the Ministry of Agriculture should cut other items in the Ministry’s 2020 State Budget. “We need to refocus the budget, yes. But not the stunting mitigation funds,” she said. 

Like Luluk, Chairman of Committee IV of DPR, Sudin, also re˝ˇgrets the size of the cut of this technical directorate general program. According to him, “The budget for social security network to protect vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic should be increased instead, in order to help citizens survive the plague and withstand its impact better,” he declared. 

The Head of the Food Security Agency, Ministry of Agriculture Agung Hendriadi, has earlier stated that the budget for securing food, eliminating food scarcity in vulnerable areas, and preventing child stunting in the 2020 State Budget will be reduced by about IDR 45.6 billion, from an initial IDR 215.2 billion to IDR 169.4 billion. All in all, the Ministry of Agriculture suggests that they can save IDR 7 trillion in the 2020 State Budget, i.e. from the initial IDR 21.05 trillion to IDR 14.05 trillion. This is in line with the Circular issued by the Ministry of Finance Number S-302/ MK.02/2020 concerning Steps to Adjust Expenditures of State Ministries and Agencies in 2020. 

Frequent Cuts 

This is not the first time the budget for mitigating stunting among children has been shunted off for other purposes. As Regional House of Representative (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”) Legislator for the Regency of Garut from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDI-P”) Faction Yudha Puja Turnawan complained earlier, Regional Governments should refrain from using the budget set for mitigating stunting among children for mere ceremonial purposes in socialization, but should allocate it to cover the core issue of ensuring nutrition and health service for these children instead. 

“Let’s not allow frills to take precedence over core activities,” Yudha said during the free medication event held to celebrate National Mother’s Day held in the Sub-District of Ciwalen, Garut Municipal District, in December last year. 

Yudha stated that the DPRD of Garut is ready to allocate budget to mitigate stunting among children, as Garut is a notorious region for the occurrence of this problem. In its 2020 budget, the Regency Government of Garut has allocated IDR 1 billion to be spent for socializing the program and providing nutritious supplements to children and their mothers. However, he notes with great regret that “In 2020, the Health Service only spent IDR 300 million out of this IDR 1 billion budget to procure and distribute supplementary food, while the remaining is just for side activities,” he said. 

The effort to mitigate stunting among children should not only be a Government responsibility. Everyone should be involved in order to stop it, especially in Garut. One of these means is by having the Branch Leadership Council (Dewan Pimpinan Cabang – “DPC”) of PDI-P hold social events such as distributing basic necessities and free medication to the citizens of the Sub-District of Ciwalen, where a high number of stunting cases have been reported. “The budget (IDR 1 billion) is insufficient. Therefore, political parties should help, especially since we are Mr. Jokowi (President)’s party, and we are very much concerned with mitigating stunting,” he said. (dan)