"Proper budget allocation is important but equally important is how it will be spent." The words of Indonesia’s Finance Minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, as relevant today as they were when she first stated them in January 2017. Indonesia transfers over US$ 7 billion annually to villages nationwide, as part of the Village Law (Law 6/ 2014). But how are these funds used by villages and do they ensure that villagers have basic services?
Galung Tuluk, a coastal village in the Polewali Mandar regency of West Sulawesi, is setting a strong example of spending better to address the unique needs of its community. There, the village government has placed a high priority on ensuring that the youngest generation has access to quality basic services. Galung Tuluk is investing a large portion of its annual Village Law endowment to bring quality early childhood education and development (ECED) services to its children. This community-driven investment is of particular importance in provinces such as West Sulawesi, which have extremely high rates of child stunting. Galung Tuluk's spending on ECED is significantly higher that that of other villages in Indonesia, which on average allocate just 5% of village funds to health and education services.
The village fund allocations are a result of community-level decision-making, whereby issues are raised at sub-village consultative meetings, before being escalated to a village level meeting where they are prioritized. Respondents from the village government indicated that the investment in early childhood education came about because communities were aware of the importance of basic social services and engaged in village consultation processes, and village government leaders were willing to invest in the human capital of their community.
In April 2018, members of the ECED Frontline team travelled to the regency and spoke with village, sub-district and district officials to understand what drives and inhibits investment in ECED services in a decentralized Indonesia. The team found that in 2016, Galung Tuluk allocated 39% of its Village Law transfer (Village Fund) to early childhood education services. The allocation was spent on salaries for its 22 early childhood teachers and constructing a new early childhood centre – PAUD Bina Bangsa.
In 2017, 23% of the village fund was spent on ECED. Funds were used to raise early childhood teacher salaries by 67% and refurbish two existing centers. Galung Tuluk also increased allocations for village-level health posts, raised health workers’ salaries, and introduced supplementary feeding for toddlers, pregnant women, and malnourished children under five. The village also invested in village-level support groups for mothers of young children known as Bina Keluarga Balita (BKB). Two of Galung Tuluk’s ECED centres provide parenting, health and child education services in one location. These kinds of integrated services, which focus on pre- and post-natal health and education, can have a big impact on child stunting.
In 2018, Galung Tuluk had even bolder plans, seeking to allocate funds towards teacher training, in the same model as the ECED Frontline program they had participated in. However, Galung Tuluk was also unable to go through with teacher training as they couldn’t convince other villages to come together to create a minimum demand for training and the cost of training was too high for the village to bear alone.
Previously, under the auspices of the ECED Frontline pilot, teachers in Galung Tuluk were able to attend affordable and quality training organized at the sub-district level for a number of villages at a time. However, as seen in Galung Tuluk, generating and coordinating demand between villages to invest in teacher training is a challenge. Our research during these missions reveals that sub-district level actors like the Village Facilitator at the sub-district office, education and community empowerment offices at the district level, and training providers need to do more to pool demand from across villages if a village-financed training system for early childhood educators is to be sustainable.