28 February 2007

The Baan Mankong Program

Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (5)

IN JANUARY 2003, the Thai government applied the policy to tackle housing problem for the city’s poor people with providing them secure houses amounting to 1 million households during five years. It is targetted with conducting two programs.

, the Baan Ua Arthron Program (’We care about Thai’ program), in which the National Housing Authority designed, planned, sells houses and subsidied houses with a mortgage of 1,000 up to 1,500 baht (US$ 25-37) monthly. This program resembles to national housing program (perumnas) and low-cost apartment (rumah susun) in Indonesia.

Second, Baan Mankong Program (’secure housing program’), i.e. government’s fund disbursement in the form of subsidy and soft loan to plan and to repair houses, the surrounding environment and basic public facilities on a self-help scheme. With this kind of program the Thai government does not build the houses on its own in order to sell or to open them for the poor to rent, but the government lets the poor to build the houses themselves. In this program the government places the poor communities and their networks as important actors in a long-term constructing process. This way the government has properly responded the city land and housing problems in a comprehensive, sustainable and lost-cost fashion.

With this program, the government overhauls the conventional ways of understanding and resolving city and poverty problems. The poor are no longer the object of development but the subject or the actors. This understanding is mirrored in the many opportunities provided in the program. First of all, Baan Mankong has made the city poor as the owner of the national housing renovation process. The program enables the poor communities to handle the housing and environmental problems themselves. With the government’s support in subsidy and soft loan, the poor then design the plans themselves in tackling their problems along the involvement in the communities. In this program, the government only facilitates some funds —limited subsidy and soft loan— but the implementation and the management of the program are fully tackled by the communities.

Second, the Baan Mankong program has made the house and environment renovation program as the starting steps of the development process in a broader and comprehensive scope. This program has become the entry point into the improvement of the poor people’s capacity to collectively manage their own needs such as pertaining to housing, financial requirements like loan, the environment, income generating and welfare improvement. In fact this renovation program has driven the communities to collectively tackle their problems, because the program mainly calls and directly invites each community’s members to take part, and that this program does not allow only the leaders to take the role.

Third, the Baan Mankong program positions the housing issues for the city’s poor as structural problems that could only be overcome through a partnership among many parties engaged in the complex city problems. By creating space for the city’s poor, the government and local politicians, professionals and the NGOs have initiated, all along together, social changes in resolving the housing problems for the poor. The solution is no longer conducted in a charitable scheme or other procedure that induces the people to embarrass. Housing for the poor is placed in a resolvable structural context that directly links to city development as a whole.

Fourth, the Baan Mankong program creates spaces for poor communities to call again for the people’s participation in the city development, because public participation has been so far paralyzed for the economic liberalization. Once the poor reform themselves and all stakeholders of the city development recognize their works, the renovation program transforms into a process that legitimizes their important statuses in the city. At the same time it proves the poor’s capability to be the stakeholder of city along with the others in tackling serious problems that deeply affect the city. The problems do not only relates to housing but also the environment, water condition, waste and people’s social welfare. Economic liberalization and top-down government’s development approach has been perceived as silencing their voices. They have been denied the basic rights to living. Now, the Baan Mankong program has adopted bottom-up approach as an alternative to call for people’s participation in city development.* (to be continued)

Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (4)
Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (3)
Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (2)
Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (1)

Read the Indonesian version.

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