Majority of peat restoration funds still unused

(foresthints.news) - Regardless of the various claims made about its performance accomplishments, the facts show that the actual performance of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), as of mid-November this year, remained very poor, according to regular monitoring from the Finance Ministry.

The main indicator of this is the peat agency’s absorption of the state budget which is still extremely low (as of Nov 13). Even though the agency’s budget was reduced by 50% due to performance factors, its absorption of the state budget, even after the budget cut, remains very poor. 

In fact, if the peat agency’s budget had not been cut (the original budget was IDR865.45 billion, or around USD64.85 million), its budget absorption would be even lower, hovering below a mere 15% (Nov 13).

The peat agency’s budget absorption figure is boosted when the budget cut is taken into account (the reduced budget is IDR428.15 billion, or around USD32.08 million), although it is still very low at less than 30%.

In essence, this means that the 50% cut in the peat agency’s budget had not affected its performance at all as of mid-November this fiscal year, with a large chunk of around 70% yet to be absorbed.

Even more alarmingly, if the figure for the original, uncut state budget is used, it would mean that approximately 85% of the state budget is yet to be absorbed by the peat agency.

Given that there is effectively just one month left this year, it will be difficult for the peat agency to change its performance achievements from the current category of very poor performance assigned to it by the Finance Ministry.

The two photographs below show Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead describing peatland restoration partnership models at COP23 Bonn (Nov 9).

Two lost opportunities this year

The 50% reduction of the peat agency’s budget owing to its very low level budget absorption - which by the middle of this year stood at a meager 1.2% - represents the first golden opportunity lost by the agency in bringing about concrete results in terms of peat restoration efforts in Indonesia. 

The second lost opportunity is the fact that the agency’s budget absorption remained so low even after the budget cut, with around 70% of the state budget still unused.

These two lost opportunities place a large question mark over the peat agency, especially considering that this took place at a time when the peat agency had promised to be in full gear and going full speed towards peat restoration efforts in this fiscal year.

Among other initiatives aimed at accelerating its budget absorption, the peat agency signed a number of MoUs with relevant provincial governments and the Ministry of Public Works. Despite this, the peat agency will find it exceedingly tough to get out of the very poor performance category in terms of its budget absorption this year.

This means that any chance the peat agency has of an improved budget absorption and of emerging from the very poor performance category will have to wait until the 2018 fiscal year.

In the meantime, the size of the peat agency’s unabsorbed budget in 2017 can be rightly viewed as a bad chapter in its journey, and one that will not be easily forgotten.