The four richest men in Indonesia own as much wealth as the country’s poorest 100 million citizens, despite the nation’s president repeatedly pledging to fighting “dangerous” levels of inequality, The Guardian reports..
Oxfam on Thursday highlighted Indonesia as one of the most unequal countries in the world, where the number of dollar billionaires has increased from one in 2002 to 20 in 2016.
The development charity worked out that the four richest Indonesians – led by brothers Budi and Michael Hartono – control $25bn of assets, which is roughly equal to the wealth of the poorest 40% of Indonesia’s 250 million population. The charity said the Hartonos – who own a clove cigarette company – could earn enough interest on their fortune in a year to eradicate extreme poverty in Indonesia.
“Since 2000, economic growth has taken off in Indonesia,” Oxfam said in its report. “However, the benefits of growth have not been shared equally, and millions have been left behind especially women.”
Oxfam said that despite rapid growth in gross domestic product (GDP) – which averaged at 5% between 2000-2016 and caused the country to be included in economics Civets list of fast growing emerging nations – “poverty reduction slowed to a near standstill”. Based on the World Bank’s “moderate” poverty line of $3.10-a-day, some 93 million Indonesians are living poverty.
“The growing numbers of millionaires and billionaires, when set against a backdrop of staggering poverty, confirms that it is the rich who are capturing the lion’s share of the benefits of the country’s much-vaunted economic performance, while millions of people at the bottom are being left behind,” Oxfam said.
When he was elected in 2014 President Joko Widodo pledged to prioritise closing the wealth gap ahead of blindly pursuing growth. “Economic growth is very important for my administration, for my people but it’s more important to narrow the gap,” Widodo said in an interview with Bloomberg shortly after his election. “When we invite investors they must give benefit to my people. Also to my country.”
Widodo said the country’s Gini coefficient (the global inequality measure) was about 0.43, and “for me it’s dangerous”. Last month Widodo conceded that the country had made little progress in rebalancing the society, and vowed to make narrowing the gap his top priority of 2017. “Despite a slight improvement in our Gini ratio, it is still relatively high,” Widodo said, according to the Jakarta Globe.
The country’s bureau of statistics said the Gini coefficient had reduced to to 0.387 in March 2016 compared with 0.402 in September 2015.
Dini Widiastuti, spokesperson for Oxfam in Indonesia, said: “It is simply not right that the richest person in Indonesia earns more from the interest on his wealth in just one day than our poorest citizens spend on their basic needs in an entire year. Inequality in Indonesia is reaching crisis levels. If left unchecked, the huge gap between rich and poor could undermine the fight against poverty, exacerbate social instability, and put a brake on economic growth.”