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Indonesia slips in human development — Abdurrahman Syebubakar

NOVEMBER 3 — The 2016 Global Human Development Report (HDR) devoted to the theme of “human development for everyone” was released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in March this year. As the title implies, the Report argues that universalism is key to human development and human development for everyone is attainable. 

The Report raises the fundamental questions of who has been left behind in progress in human development and how and why. It then seeks how human development can be ensured for everyone, now and in the future.

Human development progress has been impressive on many fronts, but not universal, notes the Report. Gains in human development are uneven across countries; socio-economic, ethnic and racial groups; urban and rural areas; and women and men. While some are enjoying the fruits and affluence of development, millions of people among various groups suffer basic and multiple deprivations, preventing them from reaching their full potential in life.

Humanity is facing a yawning gap in the global wealth possession. The richest 1 per cent of the global population holds no less than 46 per cent of the world’s wealth. Around 1.5 billion people in the world are reported to still live in multidimensional poverty. In 2013, approximately 766 million people were estimated to live in extreme poverty with income of US$1.90 a day. The Report furthermore reveals that, worldwide, one person in nine is hungry, one in three is malnourished, 18,000 people a day die because of air pollution, HIV infects 2 million people a year and an average of 24 people are displaced from their home every minute. It is also noted that “more than a billion people live with some form of disability and are among the most marginalized in most societies. They face stigma, discrimination and inaccessible physical and virtual environments” (HDR 2016)

The Report discloses many more issues and challenges of today’s humanity which may persist in the future unless comprehensive strategies to address them commence from now on. 

Since the first Human Development Report in 1990, the global HDI value has increased 20 per cent since then, from 0.597 to 0.717, meaning about 0.77 percentage point increase per year. The increase in the HDI value for the least developed countries is 46 per cent or 1.77 per cent a year.

The HDI is a measure for assessing progress in three basic dimensions of human development, namely a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and access to a decent standard of living.

To address the above challenges, the Report forcefully argues for a four-pronged policy strategy at the national level. This includes reaching those left out using universal policies such as inclusive growth, not mere growth; pursuing measures for groups with special needs, for instance, persons with disabilities; making human development resilient; and empowering those left out by employing multiple measures.

How about Indonesia?

Indonesia is at 113 out of 188 countries and territories ranked in the 2015 Human Development Index (HDI) of the 2016 HDR, coming down by three positions from 110 as ranked in the previous HDR. However, based on revisions and updates of the underlying data and adjustments in the HDR 2016, Indonesia remained at the rank of 113 among 188 countries between 2014 and 2015.

Among Asean member countries, Indonesia is the fifth behind Singapore (5 out of 188 countries), Brunei Darussalam (30), Malaysia (59) and Thailand (87), all of which figure in very high and high human development categories.

Indonesia’s HDI value of 0.689 places the country in the “medium human development” category, alongside other Asean member countries such as Philippines, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The Report notes that between 1990 and 2015, Indonesia’s HDI value increased from 0.528 to 0.689, an increase of 30.5 per cent, about 15 percentage point lower than that of the least development countries. In 2016, other countries in Asia like Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan improved their HDI status from “low Human Development” to “medium Human Development”, whereas Indonesia slips three ranks.

The mixed situation demonstrates that despite the consistent increase of Indonesia’s HDI value, the pace of increase is slower than that of other countries. Moreover, when discounted for inequality, Indonesia’s HDI value falls from 0.689 to 0.563, a loss of 18.2 per cent. In terms of the sex disaggregated HDI, Indonesia’s GDI value is 0.926, lower than those of China and Philippines of 0.954 and 1.001, respectively

The sluggish rise of Indonesia’s HDI and its derivative indices such as the GDI relative to other countries has been coupled with the slow reduction of the rate of poverty. For the last several years, the rate of poverty reduction has rarely been above 0.5 per cent annually. By March 2017, almost 28 million people still live on income poverty, increased by several thousand from that of September 2016.

Yet to mention the high number of the vulnerable of no less than 70 million people, living just slightly above the poverty line.

Income distribution measured by Gini Ratio has remained stagnant at a worrying level for the last few years. It was declining negligently by 0.001 point, from 0,394 in September 2016 to 0,393 in March 2017.

To make matter worst, Indonesia is the fourth unequal country in the world after Russia, India and Thailand, according to Sweiss Global Wealth Report 2016. The top 1 per cent holds nearly 50 per cent of Indonesia’s wealth. Furthermore, based on the Oxfam and INFID’s Report 2017, the wealth of the richest 4 individuals in Indonesia is equal to that of the poorest 100 million people in accumulation.

What has the government done?

The government has launched multiple interventions in the field of social protection, basic services and sustainable livelihoods anchored in two main interrelated strategies, namely reducing the burden of the poor and increasing the poor’s income.

Hundreds of trillion of rupiah have been spent for the said multiple interventions during the past few years. Yet, poverty and inequality remain stubborn, if not getting worse, and Indonesia’s human development outcomes lag behind those of other countries. All this are explained rather by political than technocratic and macroeconomic reasons.

Borrowing the analysis of Joseph E Stiglitz in The Great Divide (2015), too much of the wealth at the top of the ladder of the society— the rich and the super-rich — stems from exploitation, whether from the exercise of oligarchy or from the absolute devotion to predatory economic system and practices. Too much of the poverty at the bottom of the income spectrum is due to economic discrimination combined with the failure to provide adequate education and health care for the poor and vulnerable.

Indeed, present-day Indonesia applies an economic model that doesn’t serve a majority of its citizen and political practice that deprive little people. Physical infrastructure has been the hardcore development orientation, whereas a small state intervention including in social services for the poor has become the policy norm. In the terms used by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their Why Nations Fail (2012), these are extractive economic and political institutions. They lead to twin economic and political inequalities as coined by Amartya Sen (1998) which negatively reinforce each other. Vicious circle!

Unless political courage and vision arise from the country’s top leadership to revisit current oligarchic system and neoliberal dogma in the realm of political economy, one cannot expect to see positive changes. No matter how many programmematic interventions put in place and how much money spent, similar issues would arise and revert or even worse, “just like salting the ocean”.

Hence, paradigm shift from oligarchic power and super neoliberalism to substantive democracy and human development which place people at the centre of development is an absolute necessity. 

* Abdurrahman Syebubakar is the chairperson of Institute for Democracy Education (IDe), a Jakarta-based think tank promoting human development and substantive democracy.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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