In Makassar there has been a sharp increase in the numbers of street children and beggars populating the traffic lighted intersections. In 2006 there were a mere 870. This has risen to some 2,600 this year. The solution as the Mayor of Makassar, Ilham Arif Siradjuddin, sees it, is to prohibit people from giving the street children and beggars money.
The ordinance, No. 2 of 2008, provides for fines of IDR 1.5 million and terms of imprisonment of up to 3 months. Those caught begging face fines of up to IDR 5 million and 3 years imprisonment.
The stupidity of an ordinance like this is that it criminalizes poverty and lack of opportunity. It is draconian and it is backward. The Mayor and the people of Makassar should be embarrassed by such an ordinance. If a street kid had IDR 5 million then they would not need to be begging for money or food. To put someone in prison for being poor is the crime and not the circumstance of being poor.
It is time that the local government of Makassar stepped up and provided alternative opportunities for the poor. These opportunities should not only include free education for children but must also include measures that make the education truly free. There needs to be budget allocations for uniforms and books and other miscellaneous expenses.
Nevertheless, Makassar is not the first and is unlikely to be the last. The cities in Indonesia that now have local ordinances like this one include: Jakarta, Denpasar, and Medan.
The idea that donations should be provided to the Department of Social Affairs and NGOs who deal with poverty issues seems to conveniently ignore the fact that neither the Department nor the NGOs are able to cope with the problem of poverty and increasing numbers of street children and beggars.
Ordinances such as these are a backward step for sure!