During the past year, there had been one activity that appeared to be essential in any of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s working visits to regions across Indonesia: distributing land certificates.
This, according to Presidential Chief of Staff (KSP) data, started in October last year when Jokowi visited Gunungkidul regency, a dry region located in southern Yogyakarta province, where he distributed 3,023 land certificates to mostly small-scale farmers.
As of August this year, the President had distributed 82,938 land certificates to citizens in 25 regions across the country, the data showed.
In Boyolali, Central Java, and Malang, East Java, alone, he distributed 10,055 and 10,038 certificates to locals respectively.
“Why must the president distribute land? Well, it’s a matter of being committed to his pledge in Nawacita.
“He wants to show that the state is present to provide tenure certainty for the people,” said Usep Setiawan, a senior official with the KSP who advises the president on social, cultural and ecological affairs.
Usep was referring to Jokowi’s nine political promises he made during his presidential campaign in 2014 in which he also promised to carry out a land reform policy intended to reduce socioeconomic inequalities.
The policy included targets to legalize land ownership on 4.5 million hectares and to redistribute 4.5 million ha that had been previously included within forest areas.
Despite Jokowi’s efforts, recent data suggested that land reform is still struggling to achieve its desired results, with Usep acknowledging there had been several obstacles to counter.
KSP data showed, as of August, that only 508,391 ha had been legalized and only 187,036 ha had been redistributed to locals.
Earlier this year, Jokowi set an ambitious target to issue certificates for 5 million plots by year’s end. The same data, however, showed only 20 percent of the target had been reached by August.
Usep said problems jeopardizing the implementation of land reform ranged from a lack of a certification budget allocated for the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry, human resources in the field and synergy between related agencies tasked with supporting the program.
“The budget allocated in the agrarian ministry for land legalization had been low in the past,” Usep said.
He added that the government was optimistic the initial target could be achieved before Jokowi’s term ends in 2019,.
Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry secretary-general Noor Marzuki said the ministry’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year had also been increased to Rp 10.3 trillion from the 2017 figure of Rp 6.2 trillion (US$458 million) to expedite the land reform process.
Noor said “there will be no more problems related to the budget” for the land programs.
But land offices in regions are still short of certified land measurement officials who are integral to process land legalization.
Jokowi’s land reform policy has also been harshly criticized by experts as not focusing on settling land conflicts. They argue that the rampant agrarian conflicts may have been triggered by Jokowi’s massive push on infrastructure development.
“‘Sectoral ego’ among government institutions is the main trigger of increased agrarian conflict. Although the central government has a clear design, it lacks seriousness in acting against violations by regional leaders,” said National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Sandrayati Moniaga.
Jokowi set target to issue certificates for 5 million plots by year’s end Only 20 percent of target had been reached by August