February 25, 2011, Jakarta - With the progress of the PNPM Mandiri, different perceptions by the media have begun to emerge. This was raised by the Ministry of the Communications and Information in a series of public discussions with the theme “PNPM Mandiri: Perceptions versus Facts”.
The first discussion in the form of a media briefing was held on January 20. During this discussion, Sujana Royat from the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, presented several perceptions including that PNPM Mandiri is owned by a political party or the World Bank. He clarified that PNPM Mandiri is actually the continuation of the Kecamatan Development Program and the Urban Poverty Program which had been implemented since 1998 and 1999 respectively. Therefore it cannot be claimed as the program of a newly-established political party. Sujana also emphasized that although some of the funding derived from the World Bank, the program is fully implemented by the government of Indonesia.
There is also a perception that the program is ineffective to alleviate poverty. On this issue Muhammad Syukri from SMERU research institute clarified that PNPM Mandiri may not directly alleviate poverty levels because its funding is mainly used to develop infrastructure such as roads and bridges. However, these infrastucture presents possibilities for community members to access new economic opportunities which would improve their welfare.
However, alleviating poverty has never been easy. This was also expressed by Naning Sariningsih who manages activities of the Rural PNPM Unit in Darangdan, Purwakarta District, West Java. From her experience managing the program at the sub-district level, although the funds have reached Rp 10 billion, people still need additional funding. The most difficult challenge in her sub-district is changing the mindset of communities to try improving their own lives by themselves.
Segments from the media briefing were then broadcasted on January 26 on a radio talk show by 98.2 Green FM Jakarta and 141 other radio stations in all of Indonesia’s 33 provinces. The talk show focused on opinions from the media and CSOs about perceptions towards PNPM Mandiri.
During the radio talk show, Wicaksono, Vice Editor-in-Chief of Tempo Interaktif, mentioned that the media had played a significant role to convey a better understanding about PNPM Mandiri. However, a number of perceptions were difficult to avoid. Particularly one linking PNPM Mandiri to a political party, because since its initial launch the program was used as a campaign by a presidential candidate.
Wicaksono added that difficulties in socializing PNPM Mandiri were also caused by scepticisms from the media and communities who had too often been disappointed by the government. Such scepticism was exacerbated by difficulties they faced when trying to find information on how to access PNPM funding at the village or sub-district office.
Another critique was mentioned by Suhardi Suryadi from the LP3ES research center, saying that the fast increase in budget and scope of PNPM Mandiri has quickly resulted in various distortions, particularly when selecting facilitators whose number is increasing.
However, Suhardi also expressed his concerns with misperceptions towards PNPM Mandiri because based on various researches he had undertaken with LP3ES, PNPM Mandiri was considered the best government program. He explained that PNPM Mandiri was considered exceptional because of two elements not found in other programs, such as a participatory planning process by communities and direct fund distribution from the central to local accounts at the sub-district or village level to reduce possible fund misuse.