Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feeling better, doing worse?

By Jonatan Lassa, Bonn, Thu, 02/26/2009 Opinion, the Jakarta Post.

There is an increasing trend of social economic losses in "natural" disasters due to the rising number of natural hazard incidents together with the increasingly vulnerable population in Indonesia.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) jointly with Leuven Catholic University's Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reported recently that 2008 showed an increase in the number of deaths and economic losses compared to the 2000-2007 yearly average.

The recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake (S.R.) in the Talaud Islands regency in North Sulawesi, that caused hundreds of injuries and damage to 500 buildings according to the national media, show one important lesson. The people not only live in a vulnerable environment in regard to housing and infrastructure but also lack the infrastructure to react quickly to the warning of a potential tsunami.

We witness floods in many pro-vinces in Indonesia today, which cause losses and damage to livelihood, life and infrastructure, coming together with "the unpleasant guests" such as dengue, malaria and diarrhea (see The Jakarta Post , Feb. 14). Hence, one may be wrong asserting that Indonesia is not moving forward to reduce disaster risks amid the increasing trend of disaster risks.

On the other hand, one may share the optimistic view, asserting that Indonesia is getting better, or far better, at disaster risk management today than in the past. In terms of laws and regulations concerning disaster risks, under the auspices of the National Disaster Management Law 24/2007, followed by various ancillary regulations such as the set up of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) through Presidential Regulation 8/2008 and the government regulation for Disaster Management Implementation 21/2008, Indonesia has gained new momentum for a better risk management policy.

But why do many people feel worse when the government is doing better in anticipating natural disasters? This question was once asked by Aaron Wildavsky in 1977 within the United States' context in his famous paper Doing Better and Feeling Worse: The Political Patho-logy of Health Policy, published by MIT Press. It later became known as the Wildavsky paradox.

But in the Indonesian context today, the paradox can actually be reversed "why are we feeling better while actually we are not doing enough?"

For more: click here "Feeling better doing worse."


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