Study trips abroad, if planned properly and with clear objectives, are undoubtedly useful and necessary. Whether these trips are conducted by legislators, students or ministers, visiting other countries to learn from their successes can help us as a nation.
But too often, trips abroad, especially by legislators, are pure junkets that add little value to a participant’s work. Given that taxpayers fund these trips, we must ask some tough questions about how useful they really are.
In the latest planned trip to raise public ire, a special legislative committee deliberating amendments to the regional governance and villages laws is set to embark on study trips to China, Venezuela, Japan and Germany. The lawmakers will ostensibly study how these countries have successfully turned poor villages into wealthy centers.
“China has been successful in developing its villages, and we want to see how a village that was once poor can quickly become rich and modern,” said Abdul Malik Haramain, a committee member from the National Awakening Party (PKB),
“We want to find out how they run the village, what authorities they have, how the village administration and development systems work.”
It has been estimated by the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) that the four visits would cost a combined Rp 2.1 billion ($223,000) at the very least, with the Venezuela trip costing the most at Rp 83 million per person.
Given such high costs, a clear objective and a stated outcome must be communicated to the Indonesian people.
Legislators have a duty and a responsibility to not misuse the money they have been allocated. With the nation in dire need of funds to build schools, hospitals, roads and other public infrastructure, every expense must be justified.