Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Indonesia's middle class far from solid: Political scientist

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia needs at least one more generation before it can produce a solid middle class which is essential to a democracy, a leading political scientist says.

"We need one more generation to have a strong middle class who will lead the nation's political, economic and cultural development," Juwono Sudarsono, a lecturer of the School of Social and Political sciences at the University of Indonesia told The Jakarta Post yesterday.

Indonesia's middle class at present is still vulnerable and too weak to have any influence or impact on the direction of national development and the promotion of democracy, he said.

He defined middle class as university graduates, spending around US$500 monthly.

Although Indonesia has adopted democratic principles, the behavior and mentality of most of its people are still influenced by the traditional kinship pattern of life.

"The people in general still do not know what democracy actually is," he said after addressing a discussion on Indonesian culture with a group of expatriates.

The seminar was organized by PT Telekine, a company specializing in information, training and education services for expatriates. Around twenty top business executives attended the discussion which also heard State Minister of Population Haryono Suyono discussing the country's family planning program.

Juwono said Indonesia needs more professionals and scholars to help change the traditional mentality and behavior, and to promote modern values among the people.

He said the ratio of university graduates to the size of population in Indonesia is still far from ideal. Out of some 180 million people, only 16 million have graduated from university.

The ideal size should be between 50 million and 60 million.

Indonesia is weak in terms of middle management level, he said. "We have many generals and professors but not enough scholars, sergeants and mayors to uphold the democracy in the field."

On government, Juwono said that Indonesia as an archipelagic nation could never have a dictatorial government. "It is impossible for a dictator to fully control the huge number of islands ranging from the western tip of Sumatra to eastern-most, each with different ethnics and languages."

He appreciated the political system applied in the country, particularly the role of the Armed Forces (ABRI) which has been crucial in maintaining national stability and unity.(rms)