Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Widespread Hunger Indonesia’s Shame
If parents have steady jobs, they can afford to feed their children and themselves.
The private sector must become the economic locomotive as the government does not have the capacity to create enough well-paying jobs on its own.
Poverty and hunger continue to stalk Indonesia despite the rapid economic growth over the past few years. By most estimates, more than 50 percent of the country’s 240 million people still live on $2 or less a day.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government has made fighting poverty one of its top priorities, but with mixed results. Eliminating hunger should in fact be THE top priority for the government as food security is the most basic of human needs.
Understanding the causes of hunger is critical if the government is to fight this scar on our nation’s face head-on.
Food supply is not the issue as there is enough food to feed everyone.
Poverty, in most cases, is the root cause of hunger and, as a result, over the past five years the country has continued to experience a steady decline in the nutritional status of children under five years of age.
It is unacceptable in this day and age that 28 percent of children in this country are underweight, with 44 percent facing stunted growth.
Without a long-term solution, the country will continue to face a sharp deficit in the quality of its human capital as today’s children will not receive enough nutrition to develop into tomorrow’s productive workforce.
To tackle this problem, the solution must therefore lie in providing greater empowerment and more economic opportunities for the people, in particular the very poor.
The government has initiated some programs, such as direct cash transfers, as a short- term solution, but clearly poverty numbers have not come down.
The longer-term solution must be for the government to unshackle the private sector so that entrepreneurs can create more better-paying jobs.
If parents have steady jobs, they can afford to feed their children and themselves. The private sector must become the economic locomotive as the government does not have the capacity to create enough well-paying jobs on its own.
This is an urgent problem, as reflected in a new study released by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the United Nations World Food Program that lists Indonesia as one of seven countries in the world with the most underfed citizens.
The study notes that more than 1 billion people across the globe face severe hunger. It adds that with a child dying every six seconds because of hunger-related problems, hunger remains the world’s largest tragedy and scandal.
Wiping out hunger will require serious effort and farsighted policies on the part of governments. But most of all it will require a political will to change the way the problem is addressed.
Fighting hunger and poverty is an immediate priority as it will have dire long-term consequences on the nation, let alone on the dignity of the individual.
Every Indonesian deserves a fighting chance to make the most of his or her life and to enjoy the full benefits of economic growth. Editorial Jakarta Globe