Thursday, September 29, 2011

Govt to Blame for Uneven Development, Say Activists

Govt to Blame for Uneven Development, Say Activists
Ismira Lutfia | September 19, 2011

The government’s haphazard approach to the Millennium Development Goals program is the reason for growth occurring unevenly across Indonesia, a nongovernmental organization leader says.

Muhammad Firdaus, an activist from the Civil Society Network for Achievement of MDGs, made the comment on Monday during a discussion on the results of MDGs advocacy and monitoring across eight provinces.

The provinces were West Sumatra, Central Java, East and West Nusa Tenggara, South and West Kalimantan, and South and West Sulawesi.

“Insufficient focus on human rights in carrying out the MDG program is one reason why the Indonesian government’s achievements have been uneven and have not closed the gaps between regions in this nation,” Firdaus said at the event, which was hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Central Jakarta.

“The government has not noticed that there are regions neglected, and that there is insufficient focus on marginalized groups, such as migrant laborers.”

The MDGs were eight development objectives set by the United Nations in 2000 for achievement by 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates and fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS.

Firdaus said that the government’s MDG achievements appeared to be on track because the figures used were national averages. He said the figures did not reflect the reality in the field, where many regions still had education and health care services that were far from satisfactory.

Wahyu Susilo, another member of the civil society network, added that this problem arose because the government was not using an integrated approach to the MDG program.

Gustiar, from a civil society organization in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, said the delay in MDG achievements in his area was due to a lack of transparency and government accountability in the use of the education budget.

According to data collected by participating civil society organizations, there was an increase in the education budget of 23 percent from 2009 to 2010. “There seems to be an improvement in terms of educational infrastructure, but there has not been an improvement in the quality of the education itself,” Gustiar said.

The lack of improvement in the quality of education in Kubu Raya was indicated by the rate of illiteracy in the district, which was as high as 24 percent of the population aged 15 or older.

Data from other areas, such as Batola, South Kalimantan, showed there was inefficient wastage of almost 70 percent of routine regional spending, with trimming in direct expenditure having implications on the amount of the budget allocated to accelerating the achievement of MDG targets.

Soleman Dethan from East Nusa Tenggara said the inadequate achievement of MDGs in his province was caused by the number of women and children who were obliged to work to contribute to their family’s incomes, which had fallen due to unpredictable climatic conditions.

He said that the number of East Nusa Tenggara residents living in poverty had reached 21 percent of the province’s 4.6 million. The rate of women dying while giving birth in the province was around 2,228 deaths per 100,000 births, one of the worst levels in Southeast Asia. The rate was about 10 times higher than in Thailand and Malaysia, and around 65 times the rate in Singapore.