Wed, 24 Jul 1996

Ginandjar warns of economic, social disparity

JAKARTA (JP): The economic gap is the hardest challenge for the government in the second long-term development program, State Minister of National Development Planning Ginandjar Kartasasmita said yesterday.

Addressing a national meeting of SOKSI, a military-sponsored labor organization affiliated to Golkar, Ginandjar said that one in seven Indonesians lives in poverty.

"The gaps are not only between rich and poor, but also among regions, sectors and the sexes," he said, adding that this was caused by, among other things, "disparity of opportunity."

Ginandjar, who is also the chairman of the National Development Planning Board, said that disparity is growing, affecting the social and political situation.

Lessons should be learned not only from Indonesian history but also other countries which have experienced the division and political conflicts caused by such gaps, he pointed out.

He noted that unemployment has increased, which may stoke social anger. "What's worse is that many of the unemployed are educated people, and include high school and university graduates," he said.

In 1980, there were only 132,000 educated people who were unemployed, but that figure had risen to 2,2 million by 1995.

Ginandjar also brought up a number of other social and economic problems, such as the low salaries of civil servants, which he said were low even compared to the minimum wages that factory labors received.

Ginandjar also pointed out that the "future, real challenge of the next century" is international trade, and keeping its disadvantages to a minimum while striving to gain its benefits.

There's no alternative but to enter global free trade, he said. "Otherwise, we'll lose out," he said, saying that unemployment will increase, and national income drop.

One of the conditions for Indonesia to meet the stiff competition of global trade is by improving its mastery of technology, he argued.

The World Bank has observed that developing countries will be well placed to benefit from global trade. By 2010, 38 percent of the world's goods will be produced by developing countries, he said. (16)