Indonesia seeks cash bailout to save its forests (published by Planet Ark 22 February 2000)
Indonesia can provide less than one-fifth of the money needed to restore its ravaged forests and is seeking foreign aid for the rest, Forestry and Plantations Minister Nur Mahmudi Isma’il said yesterday. According a Reuters News Service Report Isma’il said that the country needs a total of 22.2 trillion rupiah ($US 2.9 billion) in order to “rehabilitate” its forests, but has been able to allocate only a small fraction of that sum. “We only have four trillion rupiah, that’s why we have to seek grants from overseas,” Isma’il told reporters after meeting President Abdrurrahman Wahid. Indonesia’s forests, one of the world’s great remaining tracts of tropical rainforest, have been ravaged for years by over-logging, often with government approval, and clearance for plantations. In the late 1990s forest fires repeatedly hit the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where much of the remaining forest is. These disasters coincided with the country’s economic collapse which has left its government dependent on foreign aid to balance its budget.
Isma’il added that he plans to go to Japan and the United States next month to meet World Bank officials to persuade them to provide grants. Isma’il said that more than six million hectares of forest in Indonesia need rehabilitation and replanting programmes.