Thu, 10 Jul 2003

`Development needs paradigm shift'

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

State Minister/Head of the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) Kwik Kian Gie on Wednesday called for a paradigm shift in development programs in order to help improve the country's human development index (HDI).

Kwik, known for his often sharp criticism of government policies, said the current growth-oriented development strategy had failed to bring about improved public welfare and thus must be redirected to be more in favor of the poor.

The minister blamed growth-oriented development strategy that disregarded equal distribution of resources as being responsible for Indonesia's failure to improve its people's lives as shown by the country's poor performance in a United Nations HDI report.

"Gross domestic product is merely figures that do not reflect whether the citizen gets equal benefits from development. After more than 30 years of constant economic growth we see that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening," he told a press briefing on Wednesday after the launch of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)'s report on the Human Development Index here.

Kwik was commenting on the report, which said that of 175 countries surveyed, Indonesia ranked 112th in the Human Development Index, below Vietnam, the Philippines and all other Southeast Asian countries.

The report said that among other countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia was the poorest in terms of child mortality rate, access to clean water and sanitation, nutrition and access to schooling.

Separately, former minister for resettlement and regional infrastructure Erna Witoelar said that it was high time for the government to start formulating policies in favor of the poor.

She said a greater portion of the state budget should be allocated on education, health, public transport and poverty eradication programs.

"However, the government should not repeat past mistakes by letting much of the state budget be embezzled by officials before reaching the target. The budget has to be drawn up according to public needs," she told The Jakarta Post.

Erna also said that the government needed to set out an integrated approach in its development strategy. She cited the fact that some ministries often worked according to their own agendas, and failed to cooperate with other ministries.

An analyst from the state-owned, Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, Revrisond Baswir, told the Post that growth-oriented development had in fact been criticized all over the world for its failure to improve public welfare.

But, despite the criticism the Indonesian government could not do much to eliminate poverty as it still had strong ties with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organization known for its stringent market orientation and anti-state intervention stance, he said.

He said such ties had hampered the government in creating policies that would benefit the poor.

"To boost employment, the Indonesian government should not heed to the fund's directives in tighten fiscal policies as this would prevent the country from eradicating poverty," he said.

Revrisond criticized President Megawati Soekarnoputri's plan to launch projects worth trillions of rupiah, a move he said would bring little benefit to the country's economy.

"Instead of spending money on such high-profile projects, the government should focus on job-creating projects. More of the state budget should be earmarked for the agriculture ministry, ministry of trade, and other ministries that have a direct link with the people's welfare," he said.