Public budgets are tools for promotion and maintenance of public welfare. Thus the public has the right to be involved in every aspect of government budget formulation and dispersal, thereby ensuring that budgets truly reflect principles of popular sovereignty and social justice.
Over the years, drafting, discussion, adoption and implementation of budgets in Indonesia have been closed processes, involving only a few people; and budget processes did not focus squarely on the public interest. Furthermore, State budgets were regarded as the domain of government, with the people being relegated to being mere “objects”. As a result budgets did not reflect the public interest or public needs.
It was against this background that the FITRA was established in September 1999. From the outset its raison d’être has been to advocate acceptance of the people’s right to be involved throughout the entire budgetary process (from formulation through discussion and implementation to evaluation). FITRA’s aim has been to work with every layer of civil society to develop a groundswell of support for budget transparency and the establishment of budgetary processes focused on public welfare and social justice.
FITRA was established on the initiative of a group of Jakarta-based NGO activists and intellectuals who shared concerns about the democratization process, especially its delivery of regional autonomy and good governance, both issues that came to the fore after Indonesia’s transition to democracy.
The reform movement in Indonesia gave rise to demands that principles of good governance should be the basis of government in Indonesia. Various groups were also urging that public budgets should be the principal government instrument for enhancing public welfare. At the beginning of the reform era, public budgets were still regarded as State secrets and the exclusive domain of government bureaucracy; and the public was regarded as having no right to know what government was doing. It followed that popular sovereignty over public budgets was ignored in budget policy formulation and execution. It was against this background that FITRA was established as a pioneer of budget advocacy in Indonesia.
Through its budget advocacy work Fitra has earned the respect of several international donors. The Ford Foundation has provided FITRA with funding support right from 2000 up to now. More specifically, in 2009-10 the Ford Foundation provided $US 531 594 for a “Strategic Alliance for Poverty Alleviation” program at the national level and in 6 local government areas. The Asia Foundation (TAF) has also supported FITRA since 2002 with funding for gender-responsive budget programs and for budget advocacy. In this period too TAF provided FITRA with US$ 234 554 to research and compile a “Local Budget Index” in 41 local government areas. Between 2008 and 2009 FITRA also won the support of the Democratic Reform Support Program (DRSP) within USAID totaling $US 85 990 for a program entitled “Encouraging Transparency and Accountability of Election Budgets and Logistics Management within the National Indonesian Electoral Commission”. In addition, FITRA has received support from a number of other donors: Kemitraan (Partnership), the Tifa Foundation, the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), the UN Millennium Goals Committee, AusAID and the European Union.