Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Building a Partnership for Social Service Delivery in Indonesia: State and Faith-Based Organisations

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Building a Partnership for Social Service Delivery in Indonesia: State and Faith-Based Organisations

Article excerpt


This paper will highlight the role played by faith-based organisations (FBOs) in Indonesia in delivering social programmes for the poor. It will examine factors affecting the delivery of social services by FBOs and propose some social policy changes. Indonesia is recently emerging as a lower-middle income country. Yet, in 2010, nearly 14 per cent of the population lived under the official poverty line and continues to require social assistance to meet their basic needs.(1)

Contrary to the situation in Western countries, in Indonesia the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in poverty alleviation is an emergent field of study. There are two principal reasons for the lack of scholarly enquiries into the role of FBOs as social service providers. First, the state has single-handedly implemented their policies through government agencies and rarely formed partnerships or contracted out their services to the private sector. During the Suharto government, the poverty alleviation task was mainly carried out by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas). This contrasts with the dominant practices of social service delivery in many Western countries, including Australia (Melville 2008). Furthermore, the Indonesian government has traditionally focused on enhancing economic growth instead of reducing poverty (Perdana & Maxwell 2011). After the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, the government gradually shifted its policy emphasis towards directly assisting the poor. Economists are the main scholars who have studied poverty reduction policies in Indonesia. However, they have mainly focused on government policies at the national level (Daly & Fane 2002) and have not sufficiently examined non-government anti-poverty programmes. For example, recent work on Indonesian poverty (Manning & Sumarto 2011) has a strong focus on poverty reduction programmes by the Indonesian government and international agencies.

Second, until now scholars in the social sciences have in general not focused their attention on FBOs. One possible reason for this could be that anthropologists, who work on the study of religions and rituals, rarely extend their research scope to include FBOs. The role of FBOs in development policies is an emergent field of study as demonstrated by several recent publications (Bornstein 2005; Occipinti 2005; Clarke & Jennings 2008). In addition, FBOs are rightly increasing their role internationally in humanitarian disaster relief efforts (Benthall 2008; Clarke 2010). In order to fill this gap, this article will highlight the role of FBOs in delivering social services to the poor in Indonesia. It will examine how effective delivery of their services can be achieved, drawing on data from the author's fieldwork observations and interviews conducted in Indonesia between 2006 and 2011. In December 2011, focus group discussions were conducted with 14 FBOs offering social services in Jakarta to seek their views on their role and programme delivery in Jakarta. The attendees included those from Christian, Catholic, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist religions, all of whom are involved in the delivery of some social services for the disadvantaged in Indonesia. (2)

The structure of the paper is as follows. First, it summarises the policies of the Indonesian government on poverty reduction and explains why FBOs are important private providers of social services in Indonesia. Second, it examines the social programmes offered by FBOs in Indonesia with a focus on Muslim, Christian and Buddhist organisations. It then analyses funding sources, areas of operations and socio-political factors affecting the delivery of the social services. Finally, it provides some suggestions for future policy development for effective delivery of social programmes by FBOs in contemporary Indonesia.

State-run anti-poverty programmes and their limitations

Poverty has been a major problem in Indonesia for some time, despite the significant economic growth achieved between 1970 and 1996 (Wie 2002). …

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