Poverty and Identity Matters

BLT riot. There were at least two kinds of commotion in the implementation of this BLT or direct cash assistance. Data discrepancies and organizational unpreparedness. Then came the following implications such as the death of parents, murder, persecution, resignation of village officials, and threats against enumerators.

What happens is probably a mismatch of identities. How do people identify as poor, and how do people identify as poor. Research shows that poverty is not only related to material limitations but also limited social resources. Poverty is also a dynamic matter of identification, identity and bargaining. When there is BLT, people identify themselves as poor in droves and offer their identities to those in authority. The identification process is related to access to resources to fulfill their needs, in this case money.

When the name is crossed out, it means that bargaining opportunities are closed, as well as closing access to cash resources. Therefore it can be understood if the form of bargaining that appears instead is a demand with force. When there are no resources up for grabs, people tend to be cautious and reluctant to admit they are poor. The word poor is considered derogatory. This symptom emphasizes that the identity of the poor is actually fluid. It will be avoided if it is not related to fulfilling a need and used when there is little profit. When it was heard that there was help, suddenly the number of poor families multiplied. People fight to be called poor. Those who have houses with tiled floors, television sets complete with video players also want to join the queue. In such a queue, it is no longer clear which are the rich and which are the poor. If both stand in line, it means that both are indeed poor.

At the beginning of 2006, the Head of Bappenas, Easter Suzetta, stated that he would stop giving forms such as BLT. Such assistance, according to him, “only increases the number of beggars”. However, perhaps because it had been programmed from the start, the second phase of BLT distribution was running. (click here to see the poverty alleviation program table). Assistance of Rp. 300,000.00 for three months was not sufficient. That much money means IDR 3,300.00 per day. The money is only enough to buy a liter of kerosene, no rice, no side dishes, let alone pay for various daily needs. But, if BLT is abolished, what should be given? Provide living expenses relief and livelihood protection. Policies such as BOS (school operational assistance) and health cards are quite effective. But first, let’s examine his basic necessities of life. These needs include the availability of food at reasonable prices, the availability of clean water, the availability of cheap energy, and of course employment.

If the government continues to impose or allow increases in the prices of basic necessities such as rice, fuel and electricity (while still not being able to provide jobs, clean water and adequate housing), any amount of money will negate the value of these gifts. If the government has not been able to create adequate job opportunities, just protect and develop together with the poor in cities and villages the sources of income they have created themselves.