The Indonesian Ombudsman have declared signs of mismanagement in the Trade Ministry’s controversial move of importing 500,000 tonnes from Vietnam and Thailand.
“There are signs of maladministration that we found,” said Ombudsman member Alamsyah Saragih, as quoted by BBC Indonesia. “We have given warning because we have a preventative function [to fulfil].”
The Trade Ministry recently announced that it planned to import 500,000 tonnes of rice to prevent a shortage in the country, despite the Agriculture Ministry previously saying that rice production has not decreased and rice supplies remain sufficient.
Trade Minister Enggartisto Lukita said that the ministry plans to import premium-quality rice and sell it at medium-quality price.
According to the Ombudsman, one of the aspects of the plan that has attracted attention is the fact that the ministry has appointed private company PT Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia (PPI) as the importing company, when in the past, it has always been the responsibility of state logistics agency Bulog.
Alamsyah stressed that the Ombudsman are neither for nor against rice imports, but that it expects everything to be done in accordance to the rules.
“We are an administrative regime. So as long as it is in accordance with the right procedure, the import is the government’s concern. If it is not right, the Ombudsman have to remind (the government) because we are supervisors,” Alamsyah said.
The price of rice in several regions has been rising around Rp.500 per week since the end of the year, currently reaching Rp.13,000 per kilogram, which is the highest it has been in two decades. According to sellers, the price of rice is due to the decline in supply from rice producing regions such as West and East Java.
Photo courtesy of Jakarta Post, R. Berto Wedhatama