Failure to Ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: An Incorrigible Loss for Indonesia

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Failure to Ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: An Incorrigible Loss for Indonesia

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For something as tiny as 9 centimeter long and turns to ashes after several exhales, cigarette turns out to be of great concern in a global extent. Smoking has become an extremely regular activity in most countries, be it the ones having developed or the ones still yet developing. However, the burden is also placed on smoking for cases of varieties of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and many other lethal illness. The idea for an international instrument for tobacco control was formally initiated at the World Health Assembly held in May 1995. This shows a growing concern of world’s countries on deteriorating effects made possible by the existence of tobacco and its products. After the adoption of WHA49.17, a resolution that requests the Director General to initiate the development of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, every countries were given the chance to take part in formulating the framework. After finally FCTC came to life and open for signing on 16 June 2003 until 29 June 2004, it so far have 177 states ratified and accessed it, 9 states signed but did not ratify it, leaving 6 states who neither ratified nor accessed the FCTC. One of those six is Indonesia, the largest smoking country in Asia. It is believed that many of Indonesia’s tobacco farmers and cigarette industry workers have grown dependent to the cigarette industries. On the other hand, the number of underage children who start smoking are increasing, so is the number of illnesses and deaths related to smoking. This essay argues that it will be best for Indonesia’s interest to access and ratify FCTC. In order to justify the argument, firstly, this essay will weigh the costs and benefits of cigarette industry in Indonesia, which will highlight a little how multinational businesses get their interests. And then, this essay will review the efforts by Indonesian delegates in within the formation years of FCTC, which will point to a big waste of resources it is if Indonesia still won’t access and ratify FCTC.

The conditions regarding cigarette and how the officials act towards the issue have gradually changed over the decade. By 2014, Indonesia has the largest number of smokers in Asia. The ratio between male and female smokers is now 90:10, indicating a rather significant change in how the society view female smokers, whereas 20 years ago it would be very strange for an Indonesian woman to smoke in public. Data by Statistics Center Council (BPS) presented that in 2001, 5-9 year old smoker consisted 0.5% of the total smoker population. However, in 2004 that figure soared to 1.8%, which means five times more kids smoking.

When it comes to the officials, the perception towards FCTC between them was not the same as it was in the 1990’s. Between the period of 1995-2003, Indonesian officials were in one voice to support FCTC. It was shown in the Negotiating Body meetings where Indonesia actively involved in making tobacco regulations. But things have been different with different regime in office. Nearing the end of Megawati Soekarnoputri’s administration, political tension was mounting, and the then Minister of Health Ahmad Sujudi who was supposed to go sign the FCTC had to cancel going in an abrupt manner. The new Minister of Health, SitiFadillah Supari, was not supportive of FCTC, and Indonesia never signed FCTC until now. Ministries also have differed positions regarding the FCTC. The Ministry of Health of the current (Joko Widodo) administration still support FCTC to complement the current regulation for tobacco, PP 109/2012, while the Ministry of Trade openly oppose to the idea, stating that it will kill jobs provided by cigarette industries directly or not.

Many of the benefits believed to have come from the developments of cigarette industries are exaggerated, misleading, and if anything, will bring more benefit in the businessmen’s part than the state’s and the people’s. It is said that a big portion of the state’s income come from cigarette tax, and customs if imported. Cigarette industries also claim that they absorb more or less 10 million labors, from farmers, rollers, collectors, merchants, creative media and advertising, and such. This may be true, but it is manipulative because it stops at the glistening figures. Are these really the truth? Do all creative advertising industries only advertise cigarettes? Do all merchants only sell cigarettes? And to highlight the one aspect glorified as the parties dependent to cigarette industries: tobacco farmers. Do they really attain a good well-being as tobacco farmers? Does Indonesia really benefited by cigarette industries? All these are worsened by illegal lobbies done to influence regulation formulation in legislative bodies.

“Indonesia is dependent on cigarette customs and excise”—is one of the argument to support the current regulations on tobacco. The statement may be the case in 1990, where the total government revenue was 42.19 trillion rupiahs and 1.71 trillion of that came from cigarette excise and customs. This technically proved to be true again in 2008, where the total government revenue scored 706.1 trillion rupiahs, and received 42.48 trillion from cigarette customs and excise. In 1990, cigarette excise and customs contributed to 4% of the total revenue, where 2008 it increased to 6%. But back in 1990 the industries were local players, and now there are multinational companies competing in the market.

Indonesia also has exerted way too much effort and resources in the formation of FCTC.The Indonesian delegates were backed with several civil society organizations and data obtained from official bodies in Indonesia. The stance back then was clear, regarding (1) Indonesia was active in the Negotiating Body to formulate the arrangements all the way from 1999 until 2003 when the final FCTC plan was submitted to the WHO trial, and (2) Indonesia’s delegates were consisted of representatives from Food Drug and Control Agency (BPOM), Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and several Non-Governmental Organizations. All of that was futile just because of a political tension in domestic level. It means that, all the efforts made by the delegation were not backed by the government seeing how little priority was put into it when political instability happened.

Contrary to popular belief who are convinced that FCTC was made to serve the interest of the developed like Japan and the USA, the first states to ever initiate the formation of an international tobacco control were Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Bangladesh. All four are developing countries. It was the developed countries that used to oppose the idea of FCTC. The fact was not surprising, because they possess some of the biggest cigarette companies in the world, like Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco.Now that the FCTC have been ratified by more than 40 countries, the framework has come into life by then. Because Indonesia until now hasn’t signed it, we lost the momentum to utter our interest in an international forum. Say, Indonesia has an appeal that cigarette industries should not be closed immediately. We lost the chance to do so, because the formulation of a more technical procedures has started since 2002. Many tobacco producing countries have started diversification program, shifting tobacco plantation into cocoa or coffee plantation. Those new commodities turned out to bring more profit for the farmers. All those shift was funded by the Global Fund, a fund source that is initially given to every FCTC members. This too, is a momentum we have missed.

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