The dangers of data illiteracy

Kompas – July 31, 2018

From an op-ed piece titled The Dangers of Data Illiteracy

According to the latest data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the poverty rate in Indonesia has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded.

Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta on Monday, BPS head Suhariyanto said that in March the poverty rate had dropping to single digits for the first time and that the number of poor people in Indonesia now stood at a mere 25.95 million people.

He attributed this to low inflation and a jump in government social assistance which had grown by 87.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Critics point out however, that many of the government’s statistics – particularly those related to social programs such as poverty alleviation, healthcare and education – are based on data from regional offices which tend to inflate figures in order to make themselves look good.

They also point out that even if these numbers reflect a true picture of poverty in the country, the Indonesian government uses an absurdly low per capita income of US75c a day to define someone as being poor – compared to the World Bank’s current poverty line of US$1.90 a day – meaning that in reality around half of Indonesia’s population is still living below the poverty line.