Jakarta. The Ministry of Finance will make up to Rp 700 billion ($48 million) in additional funding available for relief efforts in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, amid calls on the government to declare a national disaster following the recent spate of deadly earthquakes.
Lombok has been struck by several tremors since July 29, including two magnitude-6.9 quakes on Aug. 4 and Aug. 20 and more than 540 aftershocks. At least 440 people have died and more than 350,000 have been displaced.
"The BNPB [National Disaster Mitigation Agency] has submitted its proposal for on-call additional funds this week. It seems primarily for housing and we are currently reviewing it," Askolani, director general of budgeting at the Ministry of Finance, told reporters on Monday (20/08).
The agency said last week that losses from the earthquake would likely exceed Rp 5 trillion, most of which from damaged housing.
Askolani said Rp 100.4 trillion has been allocated for unexpected expenditure, such as natural disasters, in this year's general treasurer's budget.
The BNPB received Rp 700 billion earlier this year, some of which has been spent in Lombok.
Several lawmakers in the House of Representatives have urged the government to declare the Lombok earthquake a national disaster, which would enhance disaster management efforts, according to Lalu Gede Syamsul Mujahidin of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura).
"The West Nusa Tenggara provincial government does not have adequate finances to address the rehabilitation process after this earthquake," the lawmaker said last week, as quoted by Suara Pembaruan.
But the central government has so far refused to declare a national disaster for fear that it may negatively impact the tourism industry, not only in Lombok but also in neighboring Bali.
"If we declare a national disaster [in Lombok], it means the disaster is in the entire Indonesia and it will cause other countries to issue travel warnings, not only for Lombok, but also Bali. The impact will be extraordinary," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said, as reported by Beritasatu.
Bali is Indonesia's most popular tourist destination, accounting for over 5 million of last year's 14 million foreign visitors.
Meanwhile, Lombok has been one of the Tourism Ministry's top priority destinations with the Mandalika Special Economic Zone, which has been developed as a high-end luxury resort area, similar to Nusa Dua in Bali. It has attracted at least Rp 2.2 trillion in investment and is expected to draw 2 million visitors by next year.
Pramono said the government is currently finalizing a presidential instruction to accelerate the reconstruction of Lombok. This will give the Ministry of Public Works and Housing and the BNPB full authority to manage relief efforts.
Under the 2007 Disaster Mitigation Law, the declaration of a national disaster results in the central government taking over responsibility for disaster management from regional governments, following the collapse of their bureaucracies.
BNPB spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said in a statement on Monday that the declaration of a national disaster also means the country will have to open its doors to assistance from other countries and international organizations, which may have political, economic and security implications.
Sutopo said without having declared a national disaster, the government is already giving Lombok its full support as if it is a national disaster.
Local governments have proven their ability to mitigate large-scale disasters, such as the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people and the West Sumatra earthquake, which killed more than 1,000.
The last time Indonesia declared a national disaster was in 2004, after a magnitude-9.3 earthquake caused a massive tsunami that swept through Aceh.