APSN Banner

Let us, not Tapera, decide

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 31, 2024

Jakarta – It is not the government's job to tell us to save our money for housing. We, employees and workers, know what's best for us and can decide for ourselves.

Yet the newly revised Tapera program would force wage earners in Indonesia to set aside a portion of their monthly paychecks for future homeownership. Employees would be permitted to withdraw their funds to buy, build or renovate a house.

It has never been the people's fault that most Indonesians cannot afford to buy a house. The government knows well that our highly privatized housing market is broken and there is little role for policymakers in making homeownership affordable for average wage earners.

What is considered affordable housing in Indonesia is typically located far, far away from city centers, requiring many people to endure long commutes, often in private vehicles, which only exacerbates the congestion plaguing Jakarta and other major cities.

In this age, many people have moved on, giving up on the idea of owning a house and opting for the more pragmatic option of renting one.

Others, especially millennials, may have decided to travel and work remotely by relying on the internet, unfazed by the pressure to settle permanently.

The regulations governing Tapera do not specify if the policy would accommodate vertical housing such as apartments, which many consider a promising solution to the land use issues that have pushed residential areas farther from city centers.

The government and BP Tapera, the agency responsible for managing the housing funds, have said they intend to have high earners help their low-income brethren, in line with the national value of gotong royong (mutual assistance).

We are proud of the value that has long characterized our society, but what the government has done with Tapera constitutes an abuse of the principle. The government still bears the responsibility to work to meet the housing needs of its citizens within its current budget.

Indonesia is not a rich nation with the luxury of allocating huge sums to cover broad social security programs, but the government always has the choice to spend wisely and prioritize the public need instead of accommodating the greed of a few elites and corrupt bureaucrats.

In 2023, the government spent only Rp 30.38 trillion (US$1.87 billion) on housing subsidies. At the same time, the country disbursed twice the amount to procure military equipment. This shows that public housing is not a top priority.

The mandatory savings program also applies to expatriates who have worked for more than six months in the country, even though Indonesian law strictly bars this group from owning property, making such contributions seem ill targeted.

The same goes for employees who already own a house. Under the Tapera program they will still have to set aside monthly contributions.

The regulation also allows the government to target freelancers who do not receive regular salaries. It remains to be seen if and how the government will collect contributions from them.

Now, both employers and employees have joined forces to oppose the program, which only makes sense.

The Tapera program will only add to wage earners' burdens, as they already have their monthly pay docked for health insurance and retirement benefits. Ironically, the latter could also help them cover housing needs.

With the government facing a budget deficit, perhaps it is planning further payroll cuts in the future for education or perhaps environmental protection. Who knows?

Despite the fact that Tapera has been in place since 2020, the Manpower Ministry has yet to issue implementing regulations to start collecting the monthly deposits, meaning the program remains in limbo.

Maybe it's better to just forget it altogether.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/05/31/let-us-not-tapera-decide.htm