President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, in what appears to be the country's strongest diplomatic gesture yet towards Beijing, held a cabinet meeting on the Natuna Sea aboard the warship Imam Bonjol, which was named after the famous anticolonial national hero. (Antara Photo/Setpres-Krishadiyanto)

Indonesia Raises Defense Spending, Despite Budget Cuts, Following Natuna Incident

BY :TABITA DIELA

JUNE 24, 2016

Jakarta. The House of Representatives has agreed to increase spending on national defense despite across-the-board cuts in this year's revised state budget, underlining the country's desire to boost the capacity of its armed forces to serve as a deterrent against potential foreign aggression.

The Ministry of Defense has been allocated an additional Rp 8.1 trillion ($607.5 million), raising its total budget for the year to Rp 108.7 trillion, Askolani, director general for budgeting at the finance ministry, said late on Thursday (23/06).

"[The Ministry of Defense] needs [more] weapons. In a meeting with House Commission I, the ministry said it needs nearly Rp 100 trillion, but we can't afford that," Askolani said. "It's a strategy to maintain our defense. Especially on the country's most distant borders."

The decision came amid heightened tension between Indonesia and China regarding sovereignty over the southwestern tip of the South China Sea near the Natuna Islands in Riau Islands province. Earlier this week, Beijing unilaterally claimed the waters, which are part of Indonesia's special economic zone, as its traditional fishing grounds, after the east Asian country's boats were caught fishing illegally in the area. The Indonesian Navy also fired warning shots at the boats.

Indonesia has rejected the claim and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, in what appears to be the country's strongest diplomatic gesture yet towards Beijing, held a cabinet meeting on the Natuna Sea aboard the warship Imam Bonjol, which was named after the famous anticolonial national hero.

"At least we have a deterrent effect. We have to uphold Indonesia's dignity," Askolani said.

The total budget for ministries, government agencies and other central government spending were cut by 1.4 percent to Rp 1,306.7 trillion in the 2016 revised state budget.

The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing saw their budgets cut by 10.1 percent to Ro 43.6 trillion and 6.7 percent to Rp 97.1 trillion, respectively.

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