Indonesia is the country I have chosen to represent in our ASEAN meetings which we are holding for our minor International Politics and Diplomatic Studies. Therefore, most of my future blogs, including this one, will focus on Indonesia. In desperate search for a topic that might be of interest to some of my readers I stumbled upon the current gap between rich and poor. I was quite surprised. I have always thought that the mid-income and consumption class of Indonesia is strongly growing. And hence, the social infrastructure should be accordingly advancing. I like to elaborate on the current social situation of Indonesia and clear up some eventual confusions about broadcasted trends and news. Also, potential solutions will be regarded with respect to the regional organization ASEAN.
After conducting some research it turned out that key the economic indicators I had in mind were somewhat misleading. Even though Indonesia is economically growing and the income per capita has risen from $ 2.200 in 2000 to $ 3.563 in 2012, it was not representing a decrease in the gap between rich and poor.
The real consumption of Indonesia has been growing consistently by four percent each year from 2003 until 2010. This number looks promising on first glance but it does not correctly reflect the increase in a mid-income class, especially so, when looking at the distribution of the given increase. Forty percent of the poorest populace have only been able to grow their consumption by 1.3 percent. This stands in extreme contrast to the increase of income for the twenty percent richest of the populace that had been able to grow their consumption by 5.9 percent, almost five times as much [1. The Economist. (2014). Poverty in Indonesia: Muted Music. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21601550-poor-are-benefiting-relatively-little-indonesias-growth-muted-music?zid=306&ah=1b164dbd43b0cb27ba0d4c3b12a5e227]. Thus, sad proof that poverty is still a major issue that Indonesia is facing.
In fact, 32 million out of 234 million Indonesian inhabitants are currently living below the poverty line [2. World Bank. (2014). Indonesia Overview. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/indonesia/overview].The still prevailing poverty of Indonesia also holds some implications as to the health care systems and education that should be accessible to everyone but are not. I like to elaborate on the two since I deem them to be very important. Health care because it is a basic need that is required to develop ones potential to the fullest and education in order to ensure the rise of a knowledgeable generation which will be able to create a prosperous future.
When it comes to primary education, Indonesia has made progress. In 2011 the gross enrolment ratio in schools was 109.1 percent. It exceeded 100 percent due to inclusion of over – and under-aged students in the ratio. The problem however, is two folded. For one, the access to primary schools and the enrolment does not safeguard the quality of education. Secondly, to be compatible in this world of globalization one is somewhat dependent on secondary education. And here the gap between rich and poor comes into play. Because of poverty, the low income class does not have the financial capacity to send children to a secondary education. Therefore, secondary education is predominantly used by the elite. If this development is continuing it would mean that even though the economy might further increase, the young elite generation will be able to get into the high job position, leaving the poor to employment of low value work which keeps them at a low income.
I was sad seeing that the under served communities in my hometown are not able to pay for healthcare services
– Dr Albinsaid (Winner of the Indonesian Social Innovator Award)
The health system of Indonesia has already seen some improvements but still, the large populace of Indonesia that lives under the poverty line is still facing problems when it comes to health care. One example that reflects this circumstance is the mortality rate of children. The reasons that cause child mortality can mostly be prevented by access to needed facilities and professionals. It is estimated that 58 percent of deliveries are given at home. In 2011 still 46 of 1000 children died before they reached the age of five.
Additionally, around 300 Indonesians die daily of tuberculosis whereby the numbers are increasing. And Malaria, Dengue and HIV-AIDS are still causing deaths all over Indonesia often directly affecting the young generation mostly due to the non-presence of required facilities that could offer preventive but also curative assistance[3. WHO. (2011). WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2007-2011: Indonesia. World Health Organization.].
Momentary, there are two major types of social insurances which represent social protection that Indonesia tries to implement. PT TASPEN, PT ASKES and PT ASABRI cover the civil servants and the military personnel whereby PT JAMSOSTEK is mainly focusing on the private sector[4. Adioetomo, S. M. (2012). Republic of Indonesia: Updating and improving the Social Protection Index. Asian Development Bank.].
They, however, can only work effective in case the gap between rich and poor is closed because the low. income class that is predominantly unemployed cannot pay the insurances. Also, to mitigate the difference between study opportunities, either the poor need to get out of poverty, or more money needs to be allocated to secondary education for the poor. If the issues of education and health care for the poor will not be properly addressed, the gap between rich and poor will further. The poor would work and live in an even harsher environment, endangering their well being. On the long-run Indonesia will not be able to keep increasing or even maintaining their GDP. The nation´s potential prosperity would, without investing in education and health, not develop.
There are two barriers standing in the way of an Indonesia that is socially protecting their citizens – low investments and corruption. Investments of Indonesia in the educational and health system are rather scarce. The educational expenditures are 2.8 percent of the GDP which ranks Indonesia at place 143 worldwide. The investments in the health care system are equally thin. Only 2.7 percent is allocated to health which ranks Indonesia at 181 [4. CIA Factbook. (2014). Indonesia. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html]. Social progress is however also hindered by corruption. Transparency International has estimated that Indonesia is perceived as very corrupt placing them at 114th place [5. Transparency International. (2014). Corruption By Country. Retrieved from http://www.transparency.org/country#IDN]. Allegations of corruption against politicians are not being perused and guilt is being denied. Again, little accountability and transparency are given by the Indonesian government. Corruption often means feathering one´s own nest. Money invested in social progress therefore often does not reach its purposeful destination. It slows down needed development.
I like to conclude that Indonesia has large room to improve its social system with respect to education and health. My suggested pathway is the involvement of the ASEAN in national progress. The regional organization has set goals for the purpose of connectivity between member states. Education being one part of it, falling under the category People-to-People connectivity.
A successful example is the AUN. It has been established in 1995. Different universities collaborate and ensure free movement of staff and students not only to enhance understanding between the member states but also to offer opportunities that have not existed before. Furthermore, in the period 2011 until 2015 a work plan on education has been established by the ASEAN. Issues such as quality and accessibility of primary and secondary education are points of discussion during held meetings[6. ASEAN Secretariat. (2014, January). ASEAN Integration by 2015 and ts Implications to Education in the Region. Retrieved from http://seamolec.org/cnx/03/A_ASEAN/28Jan13_ASEC_ASEAN%20Integration%20and%20implication%20to%20Southeast%20Asia.pdf].Education is seen as a tool that can reduce the development gaps between nations. Therefore Indonesia should comply with the ASEAN goals and objectives and profit from collaborating with other member states and their expertise.
Also when looking at health development ASEAN is offering support. The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Blueprint and the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Health Development are being executed. One major part is the access to health-care and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. The first one being curative the second measurement being preventive medical attention[7. Fernando, F. (2013, August). ASEAN Strategic Framework on Health Development (2010 – 2015): Increase Access to Health Services fro ASEAN Peopl. Retrieved from http://www.searo.who.int/thailand/news/asean_health_cooperation_increasing_access_to_health_people_dr_ferdinal.pdf]. If Indonesia is fully accelerating on the objectives given by ASEAN, they can mitigate their current issues of bad access to health-care for underprivileged citizens which might lead to the beginning of a fully, socially protected populace.
Will Indonesia be able to achieve a social infrastructure driven by social protection that is fully reflected in the newly increase GDP with help of ASEAN? I would say that the current level of corruption is still a major issue that condemns potential development, but once the willingness to change is there Indonesia has all its means to its feet. It just has to bend down and take it. Not only to benefit themselves but the whole of South East Asia.