New ideas on chronic poverty for Indonesia

Although measured levels of poverty have been falling in Indonesia in recent years, mass poverty remains a major public policy issue in Indonesia.   And there is much discussion within Indonesia as to the best policies for tackling poverty.

The debate about mass poverty in Indonesia could usefully draw on material in the important “Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09″ released recently.  The report (with a helpful summary) is available here:

The main points of the report are very thought-provoking.  The report begins by adopting the position that “tackling chronic poverty is the global priority for our generation.”  This proposition might appear unobjectionable — but is it?  After all, many global activists in rich countries would perhaps argue that “the global priority” is climate change rather than mass poverty.

A second approach that the report takes is also controversial.  The report is somewhat sceptical of the “Growth First” approach which many development economists (including me) give strong support to.  But unlike many critics of Growth First school, the Chronic Poverty Report makes a powerful case for focusing on specific problems that perpetuate chronic poverty.  The Report focuses, especially, on issues of insecurity and exclusion.  The Report argues, powerfully and convincingly to my mind, that these are key problems affecting the very poor which public policy needs to address.  Specifically, the Report identifies five main traps that underpin chronic poverty:

(1)   Insecurity

(2)   Limited citizenship (restricted “voice” in politics)

(3)   Spatial disadvantage (living in areas that are “excluded”)

(4)   Social discrimination

(5)   Poor work opportunities.

If the approach of the report were adopted – and I’d argue that it should be — then both the international donor community as well as governments within developing countries in Asia would need to rethink quite a few current policies.  The sooner the better.