A special legislative committee deliberating amendments to the regional governance and villages laws is set to embark on study trips to four countries, drawing the ire of budget watchdogs who criticized the move as wasteful and useless.
A.W. Thalib, a member of the House of Representatives’ special committee, confirmed on Tuesday that two groups of legislators working on the villages law would be headed to Venezuela and China next month for a week each.
He added that legislators working on the regional governance law would go to Germany and Japan in September.
He insisted the trips were necessary to help the committee finalize the amendments, and he cited Venezuela and China as ideal case studies for the villages bill because of their largely agrarian societies and strong rural administration.
“There’s a lot we intend to glean from these visits, which will serve as input for our future deliberations on the amendments with the government,” he said.
Abdul Malik Haramain, a committee member from the National Awakening Party (PKB), said the group going to China would visit Huaxi, reportedly the richest village in the country.
“China has been successful in developing its villages, and we want to see how a village that was once poor can become rich and modern,” he said. “We want to find out how they run the village, what authorities they have, how the village administration and development systems work.”
However, budget watchdogs have called into question the effectiveness of such visits, particularly in light of the high cost.
Uchok Sky Khadafi, advocacy coordinator for the Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra), estimated the four visits would cost a combined Rp 2.1 billion ($223,000) at the very least, with the Venezuela trip the most expensive at Rp 83 million per person.
“We don’t believe it’s necessary for the legislators to go abroad to learn about running villages and regional administrations,” he said. “Cultural values are different in each country. They should be studying the villages in their own constituencies.”