Illegal Fishing War: An Environmental Policy during the Jokowi Era?

AuthorResosudarmo, Budy R.
PositionPresident Joko Widodo of Indonesia - Report
  1. Introduction

    Indonesia, comprising over 17,000 islands, is the world's largest archipelago and is blessed with a rich diversity of resource endowments, ecology and population. It extends about 6,000 km along the equator between the Indian and Pacific oceans, linking the continents of Asia and Australia. This fourth most populous nation in the world (about 260 million in 2016) is the largest member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), accounting for nearly 40 per cent of its population and approximately 36 per cent of its gross national product in 2016 (CEIC Database). Considering these diverse characteristics, Indonesia certainly presents a challenging natural resource and environmental policy environment (Resosudarmo 2012; Hill 2014).

    For a long time, particularly since the mid-1960s, Indonesia has been able to utilize its natural resources--gas, forest, coal and various types of ore, among others--to push for economic and human development in the country. Since the mid-1990s, the debate over whether the rate of natural resource extraction in Indonesia has been too fast and consequently over-exploitative, began to emerge as a top national issue. At the same time, the growth of economic activities, particularly in urban areas, has resulted in several alarming environmental issues, such as a high level of air pollution and a deterioration in river quality (Resosudarmo 2005; ADB 2013).

    By the mid-2000s, the evidence of natural resource over-exploitation and environmental challenges in Indonesia attracted global attention. Among these issues were: the rate of Indonesia's deforestation was among the highest in the world (Resosudarmo et al. 2012b; Margono et al. 2014); several megacities in the country were experiencing alarmingly bad air quality; river water pollution was reaching levels that could seriously affect the health of the general public (Resosudarmo and Napitupulu 2004; Cochrane 2015); Indonesia being one of the top exporters of coal--despite its coal reserve being smaller than several other countries (Burke and Resosudarmo 2012; PwC 2012) and; over-fishing occurring everywhere in the nation's sea water areas (Resosudarmo, Napitupulu and Campbell 2009; Muawanah, Pomeroy and Marlessy 2012). The concern that shocked many Indonesians and people worldwide, however, was that Indonesia is one of the top three carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]) emitters in the world, just after China and the United States, due to its deforestation activities (PEACE 2007; Jotzo 2012).

    By the end of the 2000s, pressure on the Indonesian government to properly and seriously start managing its natural resources gathered strength from both the domestic and international community. The then president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), did respond to this pressure, particularly making the programme to reduce Indonesia's C[O.sub.2] emission his top priority (Resosudarmo and Yusuf 2009; Resosudarmo, Ardiansyah and Napitupulu 2013). Before these efforts could generate any outcome, SBY's presidential term came to an end in 2014. His successor was Joko Widodo, popularly called "Jokowi". Local and international civil society groups had high expectations that Jokowi would make the better management of Indonesia's environment a top priority, and that he would develop strong environmental programmes. It could be argued that Jokowi has developed several important and successful environmental policies. In fact, his efforts to combat illegal fishing led by his Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti is his most prominent environmental policy and an example of his strong commitment. Nevertheless, whether Jokowi has actually made any significant contribution to improve the country's environment management remains unclear. Determining this is the first objective of this paper. The second objective is to examine in detail what his illegal fishing war amounts to, and whether it has been an effective environmental policy.

  2. On the Environment: Jokowi versus SBY

    This section compares Jokowi's general attitude towards environmental issues with SBY's to determine whether the former has made a top priority out of better managing Indonesia's environment.

    When elected for the second time in 2009, SBY was fully confident of his political power, winning a re-election in the first round by a significant margin over his competitor (Aspinall, Mietzner and Tomsa 2015). The Indonesian economy had been growing fairly well--by more than 5 per cent (Resosudarmo and Yusuf 2009)--making him confident of being able to smoothly navigate any upcoming challenges. He was also proud to be a part of the 2008 G20 meeting in Washington, D.C. Furthermore, he received reports conducted by international institutions stating that Indonesia would improve on its ranking, from approximately the sixteenth largest economy to become one of the world's top ten economies (McKinsey & Company 2012). It is suspected that his confidence and Indonesia's favourable economic situation triggered his ambition to create a certain Presidential legacy--similar to those of Sukarno who is known as the founding father of Indonesia, and Soeharto who is seen as the father of Indonesian development (Reid 2012; Resosudarmo, Ardiansyah and Napitupulu 2013).

    After hosting the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP) in 2007, by which time it was widely known that Indonesia was among the top three C[O.sub.2] emitters in the world, the country was under strong international and domestic pressure to better manage its environment. SBY decided to take up this challenge by forming a National Council of Climate Change (NCCC) in 2008. At the 2009 G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, he announced that Indonesia had decided on a national climate change action plan that "will reduce our emissions by 26 per cent by 2020 from BAU (Business As Usual)", and that, with international support, Indonesia "could reduce emissions by as much as 41 per cent". Much of the potential for reduction (more than 80 per cent) relates to forestry, peat-land and agriculture, where Indonesia makes its greatest contribution to global C[O.sub.2] emission (Resosudarmo, Ardiansyah and Napitupulu 2013; BAPPENAS 2012). Among developing countries, Indonesia certainly was among the first countries to announce their emission reduction commitment (Seymour, Birdsall and Savedoff 2015); demonstrating its willingness to lead developing countries on the issue of climate change.

    The NCCC, at the end of 2009, developed the National Strategy in reducing C[O.sub.2] emission by 2020 (Resosudarmo, Alisjahbana and Nuridianto 2012a; BAPPENAS 2012), proving that he was serious about climate change issues being one of his top priorities. He might have seen this as an opportunity to create a legacy as the father of Indonesia's environment, by emerging as the leader among developing countries on the issue of climate change (Anderson and McKenna 2009; Resosudarmo, Ardiansyah and Napitupulu 2013).

    In 2010, SBY added "pro-environment" to his development mantra, originally only "pro-growth, pro-job and pro-poor". In September 2013, he established Indonesia's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD+) Management Agency, a "super body" directly under his supervision (Presidential Degree No. 62/2013). In May 2011, he set a moratorium on forest conversion until May 2015 (Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 and No. 6/2013). By the end of 2011, over thirty REDD+ demonstration activities were documented throughout Indonesia (Burke and Resosudarmo 2012; Resosudarmo et al. 2012b; Hein 2013). Despite some scepticism whether the REDD+ plus programmes would work as expected, SBY and the team kept pushing their schemes and ensuring they were among the top national priorities.

    In October 2014, Jokowi was elected by a relatively small vote margin. While he had limited experience in national politics and, particularly, in international affairs compared to his competitor, he was known as "Mr Clean", representing the common people and not the political elite. He received overwhelmingly strong support from civil society groups, a significant number of which were environmental and non-government organizations (NGOs). People had high expectations that Jokowi would bring economic growth through clean government and law enforcement. His environmental civil society supporters certainly expected him to put the better management of Indonesia's environment as his top priority.

    Jokowi's Nawacita--his top nine priority programmes--actually did not address environmental issues much. During the first three years of his presidency, he mostly discussed infrastructure and business development programmes to boost the Indonesian economy. Jokowi's cabinet, in general, is thin on members from his civil society supporters--let alone from any environmental society or NGOs. Furthermore, he decided to merge the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forestry, which in reality is dominated by the Ministry of Forestry. This indicates that Jokowi put forestry issues, mostly forest production, above environmental challenges.

    What disappointed many environmental groups, however, was that Jokowi demolished the REDD+ Management Agency and the NCCC. He put climate change issues under the authority of a new Directorate General for Climate Change Control, which does not report directly to him. By doing so, Jokowi downgraded the importance of climate change issues and the implementation of the REDD+ programme; they are no longer a top priority. In a way, he ended Indonesia's leadership in the area of climate change among developing countries.

    Jokowi has developed several policies that have (or could have) significant positive or negative environmental consequences during his presidency. His decision to cut the country's fuel subsidy from approximately Rp276 trillion to Rp65 trillion in 2015 could be the most significant...

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