Thu, 18 Aug 1994

National stability under threat: Wahono

JAKARTA (JP): House Speaker Wahono warns that poor human resources, low productivity, unemployment and foreign interference may threaten the stability that Indonesia yearns to develop.

Wahono said if not properly addressed, the problems would disrupt the government's efforts to equalize distribution of the development cake, maintain growth and promote stability.

"Deregulation and bureaucratic reforms...should be pursued to make the system responsive to the changing times," Wahono said when opening the current session of the House of Representatives (DPR) Tuesday.

President Soeharto also presented his annual state-of-the- nation speech at the House, marking yesterday's 49th Independence Day.

Wahono said most Indonesians' education level, health status and mastery of technology were inadequate to meet the demands for industrialization.

Productivity and efficiency in all public institutions are insufficient. "All economic, social, political and legal institutions needs reformation," he added.

The lack of infrastructure can undermine economic growth and is to blame for the economic disparities in the provinces, he said.

The government has to work hard to mobilize the Rp 660 trillion (about US$320 billion) it needs to have the economy grow by 6.2 percent as targeted for the current Sixth Five Year Plan (Repelita VI), he said.

Wahono also warned that unemployment was an explosive issue. In Repelita VI, 2.5 million jobs have to be created.

"In addition to all the challenges, foreign intervention in Indonesia's domestic affairs will intensify," he said. "Foreign pressures will be felt in international trade agreements and assistance."

At risk

Wahono also gave warning that the results of the painstaking development would be at risk if the widening gulf between the rich and the poor remained unchecked.

"It needs serious efforts to fill in the widening economic gap," he said.

The economic gap, if it continues unchecked, would make the rich superior and the poor to harbor social "jealousy", a situation that would put the existing development fruits in danger, he said.

The House speaker's remarks were the latest in a spate of warnings on the notorious unequal distribution of the state wealth over the past week.

Senior economist Sumitro Djojohadikusumo was the first who raised the alarm last week. Echoing Sumitro's concern was State Minister of Research and Technology B.J. Habibie, who blamed the situation largely on the banks which favor large-scale businesses in issuing credits.

Occasional violent rioting against Chinese descendants, the minority group which dominates Indonesia's economy, is widely seen as public discontentment of the unequal economic distribution of state wealth.

Wahono pointed out that the large number of Indonesians living below the poverty line had added to the sensitivity of the economic gap, an old issue which keeps simmering but is never resolved.

"Special attention should be given to rural areas, isolated communities and transmigration sites," said the retired lieutenant general and former boss of the government-backed Golkar political grouping.

According to official figures, 27 million of the 185 million Indonesians still live in absolute poverty, mostly in rural areas. (pan)