Private Sector Critical to Indonesia’s Forest Conservation

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The bustling centre of Jakarta – Indonesia’s cities are growing fast

A recent independent commentary in the Jakarta Globe highlighted how Indonesia’s forests – and the global market for paper — would face a significant threat if commercial forestry were to become hamstrung and the door opened to a further proliferation of illegal loggers.

Author Stefan Braun, a PhD in Southeast Asian Studies now working for Deutsche Asien Stiftung in Singapore, expressed his concern at the possible outcome of international campaigns waged by environmental non-governmental organisations.

He believes that by entirely stopping pulp and paper companies logging in natural forest, the knock-on effect will be at least a short-term decrease in supply which “will not lead to less deforestation but at best have no effect at all or at worst lead to more deforestation. In other words, the incentives to profit by illegal logging will rise in tandem with the artificially created shortage in the supply of wood and the resulting price increase.”

In his Jakarta Globe commentary, Dr. Braun, who details his concerns in an academic paper published on the Social Science Research Network, goes on to highlight the role of commercial forestry by pointing out that if natural forests “are not owned by anyone (ownership by everyone is ownership by nobody) then there is thus little incentive to manage them sustainably. This problem has been recognized by economists a long time ago and is known as the ‘Tragedy of the Commons.’ Moreover, empirical studies have shown that privately owned forests — by individuals or small homogenous local communities for instance — are almost exclusively better protected than government-owned ones.”

His paper, which cites massive degradation of the Tesso Nilo National Park as an example of outcomes without private ownership, focuses on “the application of mainstream conservation models that are based more on rhetoric than results and ignore economic realities”.

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