Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Measure of Failure

I've previously posted that Indonesia on many measures is failing, at the very least it is failing a large portion of its people.

Actually, I reckon only one measure counts, that is net migration, or perhaps better: willingness to migrate.

Ireland haemorrhaged migrants for about 150 years (my highschool economics teacher used to say "Ireland is the only 3rd world country with snow") until about 10 years ago. Emmigration is often the last resort of desperate people, in effect it shows that the state has utterly failed them. Interestingly over the last decade Ireland has never been in a healthier state, and now has large inflows of foreign workers, students and whole families.

On the whole I am not "proud" of Ireland (not unproud either); but I am proud that Ireland is giving foreign people a chance to thrive in our society, when they couldn't make a go of things at home.

Now turn back to Indonesia. The govt. is failing the 20% of the population (40 million people) that live below the poverty line (ie. earn under a dollar a day!). It's also failing the most talented who go abroad to study or work. It fails the wealthy who generally don't trust the government education system and go abroad to seek health care. Of course Indonesia has been a success to a lucky few - the Suharto family, the Sukarno family (to a lesser extent), the expats who lunch in the Shangri La for $20 a go, the tourists looking for good value sex, those lucky enough to be supreme court judges...

However, let's just focus on one of that hard core 20% of the utterly destitute. I visited a slum in Jakarta, and met a Chinese woman in her early 30s (we were there as part of a program giving out school wares for poor kids) the thing that struck me was: this woman had near zero chance of escaping the hole she was in, but she seemed very bright and intelligent. In fact she reminded me most of all of may pal Yuk Ki, a HKer who can speak 4 languages and is a /very/ capable person.

Needless to say I was shocked. I've always lived in societies where I believed that as long as you were on somewhat of an even keel you could survive well.

In my opinion Indonesia is failing /at the very least/ 20% of its population. Perhaps 20%, 30% or even 40% of Indonesians would exchange their citizenships for another (however sorrowfully) if that meant they could live and work in a society which gave them and their families a chance to live more fulfilling lives (that /would/ be an interesting survey).

Saying that Indonesia over the last 60+ years has been anything /but/ a failure to a major portion of its people, is ignoring the elephant in the room. In fact anything and everything from the Chinese, to the Communists, to the Meneer and not forgetting George Soros have been made scapegoats to avert attention away from fundamental problems within.

The first Indonesian president to face up squarely to how Indonesia has failed its people over the past 60 years, will be the first to put Indonesia on the path of real progress -- unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon.

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