Mon, 22 Aug 1994

Capitalistic concept blamed for debts, economic gaps

JAKARTA (JP): The capitalism-based concept of development has failed to free the Third World countries from the jaws of poverty and illiteracy, according to a Moslem scholar.

A.M. Fatwa, member of the Petisi 50 group of government critics who spent several years behind bars for subversion, advised that Moslem countries start looking towards Islamic concept of development.

Fatwa said in a dialog with Moslem students and activists of the Al Azhar Grand Mosque that various shortcomings in their society could be attributed to the fact that many Moslems failed to observe Islamic teachings.

Fatwa was speaking at a student dialog to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad and explore how its lessons could effect the Moslems efforts to free themselves from "economic, social, political oppression, as well as the traps of poverty and illiteracy".

He said many Moslem countries have been neglecting the Islamic concepts of economy which features, among other things, the prohibition of usury and the stockpiling of food and other staples during famine or times of difficulty.

"Not one Moslem country has applied the Islamic concepts fully," he said. "They try to liberate themselves from poverty (with the capitalistic development concepts) and find themselves caught even deeper in debt."

He called the "capitalistic" concepts of development "untouched by morality" because they justified the concentration of capital and wealth on few people.

Last week's ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on debt here appealed for an exemption on approximately 70 percent of the external debts of least developed countries, calling it the most appropriate approach for solving the debt crises of developing countries.

Fatwa called the Islamic concept of interest-free loans a form of relief taught by the Prophet Muhammad.

"Will international economists dare to solve the world debt crisis by taking inspiration from (Islamic) teachings?" he challenged.

The other speaker at yesterday's discussion was outspoken politician from the United Development Party (PPP), Sri Bintang Pamungkas.


Fatwa praised the improving relationship between the government and the Moslem community here, whom he said no longer had to stand on the sidelines of the domestic political arena and had begun to have greater say in the running of the country.

Bintang, however, opposed practically everything that Fatwa said, beginning with his statement that Moslems are not yet free from various kinds of oppression.

He also rejected various officials' statements about the progress Indonesia had made during its first 25-year development program, which ended last April, saying that it is still far from satisfactory.

"The question is not whether we have seen progress during that period, but whether the progress is optimal, whether it is adequate." he said.

He compared Indonesia with much-smaller Malaysia whose GNP (Gross National Product) far exceeds Indonesia's and who, among its population of some 18 people, has twice as many doctors as Indonesia with its 186 million people.

Lashing out at many government programs, Bintang said manipulation and malfeasance in economic, social and political affairs are still rampant.

As an example, he mentioned that the Islamic Bank Muamalat had to struggle to collect less than Rp 300 billion during its three years of existence, while certain conglomerates can accumulate a much larger amount of capital within shorter period of time.

"Eddy Tansil could obtain Rp 1.3 trillion in much less time," he said, referring to the businessman who has just been sentenced to 17 years of imprisonment for corruption in the procurement of loan from the state-owned Bank Pembangunan Indonesia (Bapindo).

He said the Moslem communities here should take up what he called the "national agenda" which consists of efforts to ensure that the succession of national leadership takes place after the 1998 general elections, and to see that a thorough structural economic overhaul be conducted.

"Without these efforts, what you call improving relations between the government and the Moslem communities is nothing but a farce," he said. (swe)