The Millenium Development Goals have failed!

Papernas – March 29, 2007
Papernas demonstrators - January 23, 2008 (Papernas)
Papernas demonstrators - January 23, 2008 (Papernas)

The following statement was to be presented during action by the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) at the Hotel Shangri-La in Jakarta on March 29 to protest a meeting on the Millenium Development Goals and the newly passed Foreign Investment Law. The action however failed to go ahead after a convoy of buses bringing in Papernas members for the demonstration was attack by members of the Islamic Defenders Front.

The Millenium Development Goals (MDG) were born out a response or panic by the advanced countries and international donor institutions as a consequence of the failure of their neoliberal economic policies that have been forced onto Third World countries such as Indonesia. These economic policies have been proven to have bankrupted many nations and further increase the gap between the small number of rich and the billions of poor. This is the reason that after five years, the eight targets of the MDG to eliminate poverty by the year 2015 as declared by 189 of the poorest countries have shown absolutely no signs of success.

Over these five years, the MDG have failed to reduce the maternal mortality rate of the 500,000 women that die per year in the poor countries. The MDG have also done little for the 827 million people that will be living in extreme poverty in the next 10 years, the 50 countries that have become even poorer or countries that risk falling into poverty within the next 35 years (The Human Development Report: 2005).

At first glance the MDGs appear promising: as if poverty in the Third World countries is an illness that has to be treated by a cure provided by the governments of advanced countries, those who hold the right of veto at the United Nations. So they oversaw the birth of the MDGs to “assist” the poor nations with the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank (ADB) that in their mercy have funded various MDG projects through schemes such new loans or debt swaps.

But how can these false improvements confront the reality that the world economic order at this time is causing massive losses to the poor countries. An economy that is has resulted in 2.5 billion (40 percent) of the world’s people living on less than US$2 a day and sharing in only 5 percent of the worlds total income, while 54 percent of global income ends up in the pockets of just 10 percent of the richest people in the advanced capitalist countries. The poor countries must bear the burden of massive foreign debts while the foreign capitalists in the advanced countries take control the natural resources that should be used to bring prosperity to the people.

It is this globalisation of neoliberal economics that instead of globalising prosperity has globalised poverty. Which has facilitated a new colonialism through the enforcement of conditions to facilitate investment and free trade, cause the natural wealth of Third World countries to be completely owned by foreigners (the US, Japan and Europe) and the profits flow into the pockets of foreigners, ensure the free entry foreign goods (the import of rice, textiles and other consumer goods), the cutting of subsidies for food, education and healthcare, the selling off of state own industries (Telkom, the state water and electricity companies) including educational institutions (universities) to private foreign investors resulting in them becoming ever more expensive as each day goes by. This is the source of the suffering of farmers, workers and the poor throughout the world, which has already bankrupted many countries in Latin America.

The MDG are a falsehood and lie because the target countries continue to be forced to pay off their foreign debts that should be used to create prosperity. The MDG cannot be achieved because governments are required to sell of state owned enterprises (BUMN) to foreigners. The MDG are nothing more than an illusion because foreigners own the produce from the exploitation of our natural resources. Moreover the World Bank and the ADB provide us with new loans to fund the MDG, which sooner or later we will also have to pay off.

The main obstacle to the achievement of the MDG is the burden of foreign debt and foreign control of poor countries’ natural resources. For as long as this remains the case there will be no solution, and the MDG will remain nothing more than window dressing (or a way for governments to wash their hands of the problem) and will be unable to change the structural causes of poverty. Without abolishing the foreign debt, the MDG achieve little more than enabling those poor countries that are not yet bankrupt to continue to paying off their foreign debt.

The Indonesian government has no courage, the people must fight

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the traditional political parties in the House of Representatives (DPR) has obediently continued to accept new loans, pay off the foreign debt and allow control of the country’s natural resources to fall into the hands of foreigners. This is the reason that the programs of the MDG have no basis and are impossible to attain. The Yudhoyono government like all of its predecessors, including the parties that won the elections have all submitted to and been ready to become accomplices in economic policies that facilitate the creation of a new colonialism. All of them have fought to become agents for the foreign domination of the Indonesian economy. They have never voiced any objections to and never truly struggled for the emergency demands in the MDG to improve the people’s welfare.

So, it is not therefore surprising that a report on MDG achievements that was compiled by the ADB and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) dated October 16, 2006 stated that Indonesia is one of the countries along with Bangladesh, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines that been the least successful in achieving the MDG.

Indonesia’s pro-neoliberal macro-economic policies do not provide the basis for the MDG to succeed. The World Bank is one of the institutions that must be held responsible for the failure of the MDG in Indonesia, because the World Bank is the party that has most aggressively forced Indonesia to implement policies to deregulate the market that have in practice contradicted the ideals of the MDG.

Because of this therefore, the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) along with all those struggling for the welfare of the poor, calls in the World Bank to:

  • Accept responsibility for the failure of the MDG in Indonesia;
  • To stop interfering in the macro-economic policy planning in Indonesia;
  • To postpone the payment of the foreign debt until the MDG are achieved; or
  • Abolish the foreign debt until the people have achieved a reasonable level of prosperity.

For us, the only way that the poor can rise out of poverty is by providing them with five basic prerequisites: Knowledge, land, credit (capital), technology and organisation. All development policies must be directed towards the people being able to obtain these five basic prerequisites. The initial means to achieve this is through the Three Banners of National Unity:

  • Abolish the foreign debt;
  • Nationalise the mining industries;
  • Build the national economy.

For us, it is already clear that there can be no hope that the Yudhoyono government and the parties in the DPR will have the courage to uphold the people’s sovereignty. Everywhere at the moment, the poor are demonstrating that they are not prepared to be pushed aside. It is because of this that the people in fact already have the capacity, though existing democratic vehicles and methods of organisation, to struggle and win back the economic and political sovereignty from any government that has been shown to be unprofessional and against the interests of the ordinary people.

Jakarta, March 29, 2007
National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas)

This statement is also supported by the Poor People’s Union (SRMK), the Poor Peoples Coordinating Post of Struggle (Popram), the National Student League for Democracy (LMND), the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggle (FNPBI), the Indonesian Transportation Trade Union for Struggle (SBTPI) and the Mahardhika National Women’s Network.

SBY-Kalla have failed to achieve the MDG – Just some of the evidence

  1. The government allocates a greater share (more than 30 percent) of the state budget to pay off the principle and interest on the foreign debt rather than social spending on the people’s welfare (the total public debt owed by every singe Indonesian child is around US$811 or 8 million rupiah).
  2. The Medium-term Development Plan for 2004-2009 aims to reduce the number of poor to 8.2 percent by 2009. Instead, the total number of poor has now increased from 15.97 percent in February 2005 to 17.75 percent in March 2006 (2006 Central Statistics Agency Census, BPS) meaning that 108 million people are living on an income of less than 19,000 rupiah per day.
  3. In the First Short-term Program is supposed to target the development of infrastructure such as irrigation, sanitation, roads, bridges and so forth. The reality is that in Jakarta alone, as the most advance and closest city to the center of capital power, 70 percent of the people have to access to clean water or adequate sanitation (Metro TV, 21/3/07). How will it be possible for clean water to reach the poor with the privatisation water resource management being ratified through Law Number 7/2004 and supported by the World Bank. Media sources have repeatedly reported on the poor road infrastructure resulting in actions by local people blockading roads and demanding repairs or for the roads to be surfaced.
  4. In the Second Long-term Planning targets, the government promised to extend employment and business opportunities, concretely through micro-credits and small- and medium-scale businesses. But how is it possible for this to be implemented if out of the 141 banks in Indonesia, 41 of the biggest banks or 48.5 percent of the country’s total banking assets are under foreign control. With it difficult to obtain capital, the right to employment with a reasonable wage is coming under further threat. Labour contracting and outsourcing are a reflection of policies that promote labour market flexibility that have been applied through Law Number 13/2003 on Labour and Law Number 2/2004 on the Settlement of Industrial Disputes. Unemployment levels and the informal sector have swollen to 34.3 percent (people who work less than 35 hours a week). The destruction of the national industry is reflected in the decline in growth in the non-oil and gas manufacturing sector that up until now has absorbed around 11 million workers, down to just 3.36 percent in the second quarter of 2006 (BPS).
  5. The Third Long-term Program promised to meet the basic rights of the poor directly. The only thing that has been done so far is the distribution of funds saved from the cuts to fuel subsidies in the form of direct cash subsidies (BTL) and Askeskin (health insurance for the poor). In practice however it has not been easy for the poor to obtain BTL or Askeskin because of the complex and totally inhuman administrative requirements (for example the requirements to obtain a poor family accreditation card it is not based on the US$2 a day standard but rather on a minimum standard of living that is well outside of humanitarian values). Even if poor families are eligible to receive such assistance, third-class hospitals do not necessary accept or provide adequate service to the poor. Unless they demonstrate or political pressure is applied, hospitals continue to make it difficult for the poor to obtain healthcare.
  6. With regard to the School Operational Assistance (BOS) and the Education Operational Assistance, aside from the fact that there is a seepage 40 percent of BOS funds (embezzlement), Educational Management Contributions (SPP) and other practice of charging fees in the majority of schools continues. These programs have clearly had no significant impact upon for example on the 15.4 million illiterate women in Indonesia and increasing the 19.26 percent of women that are still able to attend school, the majority of these being primary school.
  7. Based upon the facts above, it is impossible for the fifth point in the MDG on equal education and empowerment of women to be optimally achieved likewise also point six that targets the eradication of HIV/AIDS and other fatal infectious diseases. Currently there are 6.5 million women who are in danger of infection and spreading HIV among the 25,000 people who are already suffering HIV/AIDS (2006). Hunger, malnutrition, the spread of the measles and polio virus, deaths from dengue fever and malaria have not declined significantly.
  8. The ideals of the MDG in point seven on conservation of the environment are mere formalities. Not one of the giant multinational and transnational mining companies in Indonesia (Newmont, Freeport) have been called on to take responsibility for the environmental damage and disasters that they have created. Not one of the giant companies that hold illegal forestry concessions has been punished.
  9. The final point in the MDG on promoting global partnership in reality represents a legitimisation for neoliberalism to be applied in the current unfair economic order and system of world trade. It is this kind of “partnership” that has resulted in the Indonesian nation becoming coolies in their own country.

[Translated by James Balowski.]