This photo shows a recent aerial view of the House of Representatives (DPR) complex in Jakarta. The DPR is planning a rearrangement of the area.

JAKARTA, KOMPAS — A plan by the House of Representatives (DPR) to construct a new building starting in 2018 should take into consideration the condition of state finances. The restyling of the DPR complex should be in line with the priority of needs, bearing in mind that the people need funds for productive purposes.

The DPR has been given a budget ceiling of Rp 5.7 trillion for 2018, up from Rp 4.3 trillion previously. Despite the budget increase of Rp 1.4 trillion, a number of DPR members have asked for the allocation of funds for the construction of the DPR’s new building by the Public Works and People Housing Ministry, so that it could be supervised transparently.

Currently, each of the 560 DPR members has an office space measuring 4 meters by 6 meters at the Nusantara I building at the DPR complex in Jakarta. Based on observation by Kompas on Friday (11/8), the space is divided into two, namely 4 meters by 4 meters for the office of the DPR member and another one measuring 4 meters by 4 meters for expert staff, private assistant and secretary.

“I have three expert staff members and two private assistants who work in that room,” said Irma Suryani Chaniago, the deputy chairwoman of the Nasdem Party faction at the DPR.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction deputy chairman Hendrawan Supratikno said some expert staff members and private assistants to DPR members were forced to take turns sitting to work due to the limited space.

As the space is so small, a member of the United Development Party (PPP), Arsul Sani, frequently allows his expert staff members to work from outside the DPR complex, saying it was not convenient for them to work there. “The room is ideally only for two people,” he added.

No need to be big

Even if a new building is to be built, according to Arsul Sani, there is no need for it to be too big. Arsul said the Nusantara I building could still be renovated to expand the space for DPR members.

The new building should not be too luxurious either, let alone be equipped with non-essential facilities like a swimming pool or spa, as mentioned in a proposal that appeared in 2010. Based on office space guidelines issued by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) in Canada in 2012, a closed workspace of 22.5 square meters can actually accommodate up to five people.

Besides taking into account the state finances, Hendrawan also asked that the budget allocation and construction work for the new building be entrusted to the Public Works and People Housing Ministry. According to Hendrawan, this is important to avoid a negative public perception that DPR members are seeking to profit from the building project.

DPR Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah said the restyling of the DPR complex would be carried out in stages in line with the state budget. In the first step to start in 2018, Rp 500 billion of the budget ceiling of Rp 5.7 trillion for the DPR will be allocated for the construction of a new building for the DPR members.

However, Fahri opined that the construction of a “democratic square” should also be prioritized, “so that all rallies can be centered on that square.”

The restyling of the DPR complex also includes a plan to build an apartment building for DPR members on a plot of land of the former Taman Ria Senayan, which is located near the DPR complex (Kompas, 11/8). DPR members have been reluctant to use the official housing in Kalibata, South Jakarta, because they are far from the DPR complex.

That is why the DPR’s housing complex in Kalibata seemed deserted on Friday. The doors of a number of houses were tightly closed, with terrace lamps remaining on.

One of the residents at the DPR complex in Kalibata, Mila, said many houses were occupied by relatives of the DPR members. “The DPR members themselves live elsewhere. What I know is that it is the relatives of the DPR members who live there,” Mila said.

While conditions are already inadequate, the DPR building will need to accommodate an additional 15 DPR members in the 2019-2024 period, in line with the General Elections Law.

Empathy of the People’s Representatives

Nevertheless, the plan for a new building still needs to take into consideration the feelings of the people. “The questions that needs to be answered by the DPR members in relation to their empathy as representatives of the people is whether it is relevant and urgent to carry out the construction now, at a time when the people are faced with a sluggish economy,” said Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Siti Zuhro.

According to Zuhro, given that economic conditions have not recovered, the DPR, especially factions supporting the government, need to propose that the funds be allocated to productive activities in a bid to restore the economy. “Not like [the situation] today, which implies that communication between the government and its supporting factions at the DPR is not well maintained,” Zuhro said.

Meanwhile, Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) director Enny Sri Hartati said the DPR should comprehend the current financial conditions of the state, with a large budget deficit and large debts, and with stagnant economic growth placing an additional burden on these conditions.

The DPR members as the people’s representatives should acknowledge the difficulties currently faced by the people, many of whom were facing difficulties meeting their basic needs. The situation was further complicated by challenges faced in the business world.

“Under such conditions, the DPR should prioritize using the available budget for productive things that can help the people amid the difficult conditions faced, help the business world against the severe challenges it faces, and encourage economic development,” said Enny.

( APA/DD10)