Tue, 16 Aug 1994

Economic gap

I am very much interested in Minister of Research and Technology B. J. Habibie's comments (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 12, 1994) on the issue of economic gap related by Prof. Sumitro Djojohadikusumo recently. According to Habibie, nowadays Indonesia is much better than the United States of America. The criteria, which is used by Habibie, is the comparison between GNP per capita and poverty line which for Indonesia is 54.47 and for the U.S.is only 36.67. Another criteria used by Minister Habibie is the number of population that is still under the poverty line, i.e. Indonesia has only 13.6 percent and the U.S. has 30 percent. Fantastic!

My question: "Is that true?" According to presented data Indonesia's GNP per capita is US$ 700, and the U.S. is $ 22,000. The Indonesia's (Jakarta) poverty line is $ 13.6 and the U.S. (New York) is $ 600. Mathematically, it is correct to say that 700 divided by 13.6 is bigger than 22,000 divided by 600. But is it really true that the Indonesia's poverty line is only $13.6 or about Rp 30,000 (enough to buy 85 kilograms of lowest quality rice), and the U.S. is $600.

In my opinion, the criteria used must be universally valid. Or is it because $ 13.6 is enough for Indonesian people to live for one year? While the American standard is $ 600 a year? Is $ 13.6 sufficient to meet the minimum physical need (22,000 calories)? Yes, maybe it is enough to buy gaplek (dried cassava chips). Then the Indonesian people are indirectly undervalued.

If the mathematical formula as explained by Pak Habibie is accepted, it is easy to reduce the number of the population who is under the poverty line, i.e. by lowering the standard, for example, from $ 13.6 to $ 10 or even $ 5. So it is quite easy to achieve the one percent target as stated by Minister Habibie. As simple as that?