Objectives were to understand the changes that were taking place in the forestry sector during transition from centralised to autonomous government, in order to strengthen the existing policy dialogue in Indonesia regarding appropriate decentralisation policies for natural resource management.
This project studied the effects of decentralisation on Indonesia’s sustainable forest management. Improved effectiveness arising from decentralisation depends on a number of factors that this study tested and studied, among them institutional capacity of decentralised structures, financial resources, power relationships among key players/stakeholders and orderliness of transition to decentralisation. New developments were compared with the centralised system that had prevailed till then.
The study revealed that Kapuas District faced significant challenges arising from regional autonomy. Many of them were related to the district’s enormous size and low population density. Many Dayak communities still live in remote communities. The district has been poorly funded under Indonesia’s ‘New Order’ and therefore roads, transportation, education and health services all remain rudimentary.
The high expectations associated with regional autonomy were not being realised. There was little progress towards an administration that reflected the aspirations of the people. The administration was grappling with a critical budgetary situation, due to its history of high dependence on central government revenues and a poor record of generating its own revenues. In a search for new sources of income to support a range of government services under the new autonomy, the Kapuas district government had established new regulations that enabled the imposition of a whole range of taxes and levies on the forestry sector, encompassing both legal and illegal extraction.
The political changes known as reformasi entailed a shift in the balance of power to some extent towards local communities. But new powers granted to district government had only strengthened the standing of those already well positioned to pursue their interests. During the transition period of 2000, the needs and demands of local communities had barely found a place in district politics. Meanwhile timber interests and local entrepreneurs were adjusting to the new situation and entering into arrangements with powerful local groups. Although the legal discourse surrounding the extraction of timber may have changed with decentralisation, the rapid and highly unsustainable depletion of the region’s timber resource continued.
The study revealed the many challenges faced in Kapuas District during the transition process, but it is hoped that its findings and the recommendations arising from it will be pivotal to improving the decentralisation policies with regard to Indonesia’s forest resources and forest-dependent communities.