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Wed, 08/20/2008 - 01:29
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Jakarta, Aug 19 (ANTARA) - Teachers and various quarters in the educational sector hailed the government's proposal in the Draft 2009 State Budget to raise education expenditure from Rp154.2 trillion in 2008 to Rp224 trillion next year.

However, worries and warnings also arose that the funds which for the first time reached 20 percent of the state budget as required by the 1945 Constitution might not be used in proper ways to improve the quality of education.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in his state of the nation address on Friday last week said the government was proposing to raise the education budget to meet the 20 percent requirement in the Constitution.

"The budget for education has risen to almost double from Rp78.5 trillion in 2005 to Rp154.2 trillion in 2008. In fact, for the 2009 budget, in the midst of the global oil and food price crisis that has adversely impacted our economy, we have been able to meet the 20 percent of the State Budget requirement for education as mandated by the constitution," the president said.

The education budget calculation formula for the 2009 state budget was the same as for the 2008 state budget but the amount was increased to 20 percent.

The president revealed the plan to raise the education budget only two days after the Constitutional Court made a decision demanding the government to allocate budget amounting to at least 20 percent from the State Budget and Regional Budgets for the education sector.

Teachers welcomed the government's decision to heed the Constitutional Court's decision. "We gladly welcome the increase in the education budget which reaches 20 percent of the state budget to increase the welfare of teachers," Sayuti, coordinator of United Teachers Front of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) province, said.

The same response was also given by other teachers in various parts of the country, including those in Lebak district, Banten.

"If the 20 percent budget is realized, education in the country will progress and its quality will be improved," Nurmanah (50), an elementary school teacher in Rangkasbitung Timur, Lebak District, Banten province, said.

She said that Indonesia up to now had not enough and proper educational facilities due to shortages of funds. Thus, the increase in the education budget was really a welcome surprise.

Minister of Education Bambang Sudibyo himself claimed he was surprised to learn that the president in his state of the nation address proposed a 20 percent education budget.

"I was surprised, even almost dazed, to hear the president's address," Sudibyo said.

In line with the increase in the education budget, calls for a tight control of its use also arose.

Thus, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asked that increase in the budget for education in the 2009 Draft State Budget must be used most properly in improving the quality of education.

"I call on all concerned to spend the education budget which has been raised by 20 percent as best as efficient as possible, and avoid missing a target, " he told a meeting with national exemplary figures on Monday night.

He told the exemplary national figures, including teachers from 33 provinces in the country, and dedicated teachers from remote and isolated areas, that the increased budget will raise the living standard of teachers, and improve the quality of graduates making them ready for work.

The president said that in order to meet the decision of the Constitutional Court, the government in the 2009 Draft State Budget allocated a budget of 20 percent for education, bringing the budget to a total of Rp244 trillion.

In the meantime, the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI) also called for a tight control of the use of the education budget so that it would be effective and efficient.

"We hail the allocation of Rp224 trillion or 20 percent of the state budget for the education sector but we hope that the use of the budget will be tightly controlled," H Dahri of PGRI for South Kalimantan branch said.

He said that a budget of that large amount would be useless if there were leakages in its use.

Anang Rosadi Adnansi, deputy chairman of the People's Welfare Commission of South Kalimantan's Regional Legislative Assembly (DPRD) said that the big budget should not create 'project mentality' of officials in charge of managing the use of the funds.

"All parties welcome the 20 percent budget but it should not create a project mentality," he said referring to widely known officials' mentality to create projects where they could get money.

Therefore, the Education Ministry and Religious Affairs Ministry as the recipients of the budget had to prepare an implementation scheme for the proper and efficient use of the budget.

"The Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Religious Affairs should prepare how to absorb a fund which all of a sudden increases drastically," Chairman of the United Development Party Faction of the House of Representatives (DPR) Lukman Hakim Saefuddin said.

Minister for National Education Bambang Sudibyo said he already had a strategy for the use of the fund. He cited as an example the absorption of educational expenditure in the 2007 budget which reached 93 percent.

He said that the education budget allocation would be channeled through the ministry of national education and the ministry of religious affairs as well as through the General Allocation Fund (DAU) and Special Allocation Fund (DAK) schemes.

According to Sudibyo, Rp52 trillion of the education budget would be channeled through the ministry of education and Rp20 trillion through the religious affairs ministry (which manages state-owned religious schools), and the remaining ones through the DAU and DAK schemes.

The funds will, among others, be used to rebuild damaged school buildings and increase the functional allowance of 2.7 million teachers from the present Rp1.5 million a month to Rp2 million, Minister Sudibyo said.