Looking at the fate of food agricultural land Below omnibus law (law of job creation)

omnibus-law-cipta-kerja

One aspect that must be criticized in relation to the enforcement of the Job Creation Law (Undang-undang Cipta Kerja) is the existence and sustainability of food-agricultural land, especially rice fields, as the main medium for producing rice. So far, the area of ​​rice fields in Indonesia has continued to decline. Based on the results of the 1983 Agricultural Census (AC), the area of ​​rice fields in Indonesia is around 16 million hectares. This number has continued to decline over the past few decades. According to the results of the 2013 AC, the area of ​​rice fields in Indonesia is only 8 million hectares (Maman et al., 2017). This number is still decreasing. In 2019, the National Land Agency (BPN) announced that the total area of ​​rice fields in Indonesia was only 7.46 hectares; and in 2020, BPN is still announcing the same number of rice fields, without any reduction and also without any additions. Precisely, the area of ​​rice fields in Indonesia in 2020, according to BPN, is 7,463,948 hectares (Kompas.com, February 4, 2020). This amount, of course, includes the results of a new rice field project which is a program of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The decrease in rice field area is very ironic because in the midst of a growing population of Indonesia, from 150 million in the 1980s to 270 million in 2020; while they are very dependent on rice. Food diversification programs – to reduce dependence on rice/ cooked rice have not yielded significant results.

 

Land Protection Which do not Protect

Actually, the Indonesian government has formally made efforts to protect rice fields in Indonesia. This effort can be seen by the issuance of the Law on the Protection of Sustainable Food Agricultural Land (UUPL2B), namely Law no. 41/year 2009 which was passed and promulgated on October 14, 2009. This law essentially mandates the Regional Government to allocate land for food agriculture which may not be converted in preparing regional spatial plans (RTRW) and in formulating detailed spatial plans (RDTR). In other words, this law instructs each Regional Government to create food production centers in their respective regions. The food center, in Law no. 41/2009, is referred to as the sustainable food agriculture area (KP2B).

Furthermore, each Regional Government is obliged to preserve and maintain the sustainability of KP2B. Referring to Law no. 41/2019, if an area which has been designated as KP2B, and there are parties who dare to change the function, then the perpetrators can be subject to criminal sanctions for five years or a maximum fine of IDR 500 million.

However, the implementation of land protection has not been effective. The conversion of land function continues, even tends to increase massively. The local government seems to have difficulty in determining the certain lands to be designated as KP2B. This is due to several things. First, the regional government sees a lot of land that is strategic for various uses, such as industrial estates, settlements, infrastructure, and offices in line with the development of the region itself. Therefore, many parties have an interest in the use of this land. In other words, many interests were fighting over the land. This, of course, will make it difficult for the local government to determine the function of the land in the preparation of the RTRW and RDTR, especially for making KP2B.

Second, there are many investors with an interest in converting the land. On the basis of their interests, they have lobbied various parties in the regions to determine the function of the land according to their interests. In this context, we see that many rice fields have been converted into industrial and residential areas without any significant obstacles. In this regard, many parties benefit from selling land from farmers to investors. This made it even more difficult for the local government to determine the KP2B.

Third, from the land owners themselves, many of them objected to having their land designated as KP2B. As an illustration based on our research in Bangodua District, Indramayu Regency, West Java,  that the rice fields in the District have the potential to be used as KP2B. However, the local farmers tend to reject the designation of their land as KP2B. Those who refuse mainly are those who are relatively highly educated, have jobs outside the agricultural sector, and see opportunities to use their land for other uses outside the agricultural sector. On the other hand, those who accept their land designation as KP2B are those with low education and they automatically do not see an opportunity to use their land for various activities outside the agricultural sector (Afriyanti, 2018).

Fourth, the youth themselves tend to be no longer interested in working on agricultural land. Of the approximately 27 million farming families in Indonesia in 2018, only about 0.69 percent (191 000 families) were aged 25 years or below. The rest are old farmers, most of whom are over their 40s; or even many of them are over the age of 60 (BPS, 2018). The youth perceptions of farming practices tend not to be good. For them, working on agriculture field is not an option; and more worrying about poor perceptions of farming practices and unwillingness to farm significantly influence the tendency to sell land that they will inherit from their parents as land owners. We found this trend in several villages in Cianjur Regency, West Java (Maman et al., 2018).

What we need to emphasize in this regard is that the four factors mentioned above make it difficult for the Regional Government to designate an area as a KP2B. Besides, of course, it cannot be denied that many Regional Government officials and the member of DPRD (Regional People’s Representative Assembly) are not interested in establishing KP2B in their regions, although it not easy quantitatively to prove.

 

Land Protection of increasingly loose

         Therefore, the conversion of rice fields in Indonesia has become something that is out of control. The results of the 2003 Agricultural Census show that the total land area in Indonesia is still around 14 million hectares; however, based on the 2013 Agricultural Census, only 8 million hectares of rice fields remained; which then decreased to 7.46 million hectares as mentioned above in 2020.

However, the existence of Law no. 41/2009 – although it is not yet effective – in the eyes of investors is still considered as a barrier, which will hinder the pace of investment and development. They still need a long process to change the function of rice fields after the process of acquiring land owners. Therefore, by the enactment of Law Number 22 Year 2019 concerning the Sustainable Agricultural Cultivation System, there is a “smell” of lobbying investors who are trying to remove any signs deemed to be hindering investment. This is in line with the views among a number of government officials and among members of Parliament (DPR) who wish to remove all investment barriers in order to provide investors with a “red carpet.” The existence of Law no. 41/2009 is not impossible for investors to still be considered as a stumbling block for investment activities.

In this context, we need to pay close attention to Article 19 Paragraph (1) of Law no. 32 which affirms: “Everyone is prohibited from converting the land that has been designated as land for agricultural cultivation,” but this provision is relaxed by the provisions of the next paragraph, which reads: “In the case of public interest, agricultural cultivation land as referred to in paragraph (1) can be transferred and implemented in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations.” For reasons of “public interest,” the land conversion can be carried out. However, what is concerned about this “public interest” is something that has multiple interpretations, so that for the reasons of public interest, investors have the opportunity to change the function of land according to their business interests.

Even if there is an opportunity for land use change for the reasons of public interest, Law no. 22/19 still has provisions that are deemed to hinder land use change. This is evident in Paragraph (3) Article 19 which states: “The conversion of agricultural cultivation land for the public interest as referred to in paragraph (2) can only be carried out on the condition that: (a) a strategic study is carried out; (b) a land conversion plan is prepared; (c) ownership of rights from the owner is released; and (d) providing replacement land for cultivated agricultural land. In addition, there is a provision in the next paragraph which is also considered to be still hampering investment, namely that: “The conversion of agricultural cultivation land for the public interest as referred to in paragraph (2) is exempted from agricultural land which already has a complete irrigation network.”

Some of the provisions contained in Paragraph (3) are considered to be making it difficult for investors who will change the function of rice fields, especially regarding the need to find replacement land, which is not easy. In addition, the prohibition on conversion of function for technically irrigated rice fields – such as rice fields in the Bekasi area and parts of Karawang – irrigated from the Jati Luhur Dam, based on the provisions contained in Article 19 Paragraph (3), becomes closed for conversion. The provisions contained in Article 19 of Law no. 22/19 was initially motivated by the spirit of self-sufficiency in food, but this is very counterproductive to the interests of investors who will build industry and settlements, where they are very interested in transferring land functions. In this context, the government seems to be faced with two choices: be consistent with a food self-sufficiency program that requires protection of rice fields, or follows the interests of investors.

 

Loss of Land Protection

From the two options (whether consistent with the food self-sufficiency program or following the desires and interests of investors), it seems that the Government and the Parliament are more following the wishes of investors. This is not surprising because the basic thinking of the Government and members of the Parliament (DPR) – at least those who initiated and approved the Job Creation Law – prefer heavy investment, so they must provide a “red carpet” for investors even though they have to pay a high price, namely the loss of agricultural land in Indonesia, which will interfere food self-sufficiency.

For this reason, the Job Creation Law eliminates the provisions contained in Article 19 of Law no. 22/2019 so as to read as follows: Article 19 (1) Everyone is prohibited from changing the function of land which has been designated as land for agricultural cultivation. (2) In the case of public interest and/or national strategic projects, the Agricultural cultivation land as referred to in paragraph (1) may be converted and implemented in accordance with the provisions of the legislation. (3) The change of function of agricultural cultivation land for public interest and/or national strategic projects as referred to in paragraph (2) implemented on agricultural land which already has a complete irrigation network is obliged to maintain a complete irrigation network function.

Thus, in the Omnibus Law (Job Creation Law) there are no longer signs protecting rice fields. In the name of public interest and national strategic projects, even technically irrigated rice fields must be allowed to be converted. For technically irrigated rice fields with a complete irrigation network, what must be protected is not the fields but the irrigation channels. Thus, the irrigation channel – which originally served to irrigate rice fields – will change its function to channel water to industrial centers or settlements that are considered strategic as a national project. If it is true that the provisions contained in the Job Creation Law are true, then the food self-sufficiency program will no longer be a national priority. On the other hand, the priority is to serve the interests of investors to carry out various projects in the name of the public interest and on behalf of national strategic projects.

The existence of rice fields in Indonesia will be seriously threatened. If within 30 years, from the 1983 Agricultural Census to the 2013 Agricultural Census, Indonesia has lost about 8 million hectares of rice fields (from the 16 million hectares by the 1983 Agricultural Census), then it is not wrong if there are parties who predict that within the next 30 years, rice field in Indonesia will disappear, replaced by industrial areas or settlements which are very strategic as a national project. Even if there are rice fields, then the location will be in a rural area far from urban areas. However, this is still under threat, because with the opening up of various regions in Indonesia as a consequence of infrastructure development, the location of the rice fields will be increasingly strategic, and it is not impossible that it will become a very attractive location for investors to develop national strategic projects.

Regarding the existence of rice fields, in the preparation of a regional spatial plan (RTRW) and in the formulation of a Detailed Spatial Plan (RDTR) – according to the provisions of the Job Creation Law – there is no obligation to allocate land for food agriculture. There are also no provisions regarding the obligation to allocate state-owned land for agri-food projects. The sources of food for the needs of citizens can come from within the country as well as imported food. With the loss of rice fields as a source of food, Indonesia will naturally become a large country that is highly dependent on imported food. Thus, the Job Creation Law will really become a threat to food self-sufficiency, if there is no change in the contents of the law. However, this is based on the text of the Job Creation Law that we studied, although it is not necessarily the actual version of the text, because there are many versions regarding the text of this Omnibus law.

 

State is a Food Provider

         To solve this problem, or to revise the Job Creation law, in providing food for the people, state managers should think that they are food providers. They should allocate land originating from state-owned land as a center for food production by formulating various regulations that lead to and support this. This must be done from the central to regional levels. Each regional government should serve as a food provider for their respective regions. In other words, every Regional Government must have an adequate food center. Regional government-owned food centers located on state-owned land must be protected by law so that they are not permanently converted. If it is forced – for one reason or another to convert the land – then the state is obliged to replace it according to the needs of the existing population.

In this context, there must be regulations that enable each Regional Government to have a Regional Owned Enterprise (BUMD) which is tasked with: (a) managing local government-owned food centers in collaboration with farmers/farmer groups/farmer group associations; (b) distributing food originating from mentioned food centers by establishing stalls or shops close to residential areas; (c) observing the possibility of residents not being able to meet food needs.

In addition to food sources originating from state-owned food centers, the Government on behalf of the state should encourage individual landowners to manage their land productively. Their agricultural land must not be idle for more than two years. However, the role of individuals in providing food is optional. This means that they can use their land for staple food production or for other purposes of their choice as land owners. Thus, a balance of food supply from the private sector (individual citizens) will be created, as well as food originating from state-owned/regional government food centers.

However, the above provisions should only be applied for the staple food which is the need of all citizens, namely rice as the staple food. As for food which includes secondary or tertiary needs, all of this is left to the private sector. This means that the state is not obliged to provide these secondary or tertiary food needs. In this case, the free market mechanism applies, from the people, by the people and for the people. The state only creates conditions for their business to run well.

Regarding food imports, in fact there is no prohibition, provided that: (a) it does not cause negative impacts on the people’s economic life; (b) does not cause dependence on foreign parties; and (c) does not lead to any foreign intervention that would eliminate the sovereignty of the country concerned. Those are some suggestions for improving the Job Creation Law related to the provision of food for the people. This suggestion was inspired by the food management model of the Prophet Muhammad when he organized and developed a food center located in the Khaibar area. ***

 

Reference

Apriyanti, Liana, 2018. “Respons Petani Terhadap Rencana Pembentukan Lahan Pertanian Pangan Berkelanjutan di Kecamatan Bangodua, Kabupaten Indramayu [he Response of Farmers to the Plan for the Establishment of Sustainable Food Farming Land in Bangodua District, Indramayu Regency] Skripsi Program Studi Agribisnis, Fakultas Sains dan Teknologi, UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta.”

Central Bureau of Statistics, 2018, Results of the 2018 Inter-Census Agricultural Survey.CBS, Jakarta, Indonesia

Maman, Ujang, dkk. (2017) “Al-Musaqoh and Sharia Agribusiness System: An Alternative Way to Meet Food Self-Sufficiency in Contemporary Indonesia,” HUNAFA: Jurnal Studi Islamika, Vol. 12, Issue 2, pp. 189-231.

Maman, Ujang dkk. (2018), “From Single to Dual System: Initiating the Model of Rice Field Management to Optimize Staple Food Availability,” Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences Vol 13(21), 9259-9268.

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