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JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Forestry and Plantations Muslimin Nasution said on Thursday former president Soeharto's family controls at least 4.3 million hectares of forest concessions in the country.
Muslimin said in reference to his office's findings the 4.3 million hectares of forest were owned by the Soeharto family through their stakes in 65 timber companies. "The ownership of those timber companies is in the names of Soeharto's children, grandchildren, brother and his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. There is no stake in either Soeharto's name or Ibu Tien's (Soeharto's late wife) name," he said in the ministry's year-end media briefing. He said that the estimate of the size of the forest areas controlled by the Soeharto family was based on the percentage of their shares in the 65 timber companies. The family has stakes of between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 65 companies. 

Muslimin, however, did not reveal the names of the timber companies but said that most of the forest and plantation areas controlled by these people are located in Irian Jaya, Maluku and East Kalimantan. Director General of Forest Utilization Waskito Soerjodibroto said the ministry's investigators had discovered that over 9.4 million hectares of the country's forests and plantations were owned or controlled by former president Soeharto, his family and close associates.

"The remaining 5.1 million hectares were controlled by Soeharto's cronies, including Prajogo and Bob Hasan, through shares held in various companies," he said.
He said that it is difficult to trace the forestry properties linked to Soeharto and his family and cronies, because they are in the main owned by companies, and not directly under their personal names. Prajogo ranks second in the list of the country's biggest concession holders. His Barito Pacific owns forest concessions covering 2.7 million hectares through 27 timber companies.

Bob Hasan, a long-time golfing buddy of Soeharto, is in fourth position. His Kalimanis Group holds logging rights to 1.63 million hectares in East Kalimantan, Aceh and Southeast Sulawesi. Muslimin said that his ministry found a strong indication that those properties were acquired by the Soeharto family and their cronies through KKN (the local acronym for corruptive, collusive and nepotistic) practices.

"Soeharto's cronies have allegedly abused their relationships with the former first family in order to take over several timber companies to enable them to build up giant timber groups which control millions of hectares of forest," he said.


The country's foreign exchange earnings from exports of wood and other forest-related products are predicted to drop sharply in 1998/1999 fiscal year from the US$7.55 billion recorded last fiscal year. Waskito attributed the decline to the drop in log production and the sluggish sales of Indonesian wood-related products due to the economic crisis affecting several main countries of destination.

"We are still unable to predict the foreign exchange earnings for this fiscal year. But I believe they may not reach the initial target of $8 billion," he said.

He said that export revenues from wood and forest-related products only reached $727.9 million in the April-October period. This amount excluded the foreign exchange earnings from pulp and paper exports. Waskito said that the country's log production dropped by 31.6 percent to 12 million cubic meters during that period, compared to 17.6 million cubic meters in the same period of last year. "We predict that foreign exchange earnings from wood and forest-related products will continue to drop next fiscal year because log production is expected to drop again by 50 percent compared to a normal supply of over 24 million cubic meters, "he said. Meanwhile, Muslimin said that this year's forest fires have ravaged around 510,177 hectares of forest, an increase from around 300,000 hectares last year. 

Around 508,000 hectares, some 99 percent of the forest razed by the fires; are in East Kalimantan, he said.

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