The world has gathered in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of mankind. Despite ending without clear results, Rio+20 revolved around the green economy as a major theme, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. When delivering his speech at the conference, president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono viewed that the current challenge is in combining “sustainable growth” with “equity”, stating that “We need to move from a ‘greed’ economy to a ‘green’ economy,”.
Indeed, twenty years after the 1992 Rio Conference, the world has gone through many lessons in democracy and development. If there is one thing that shall be highlighted, then it is the fact that we are in a high time of altering our views on development. In recent decades, the development paradigm has clearly shifted away from the one dimensional ‘economic-growth’ approach. Since scholars and policy makers became more aware of the importance in embracing people’s participation and putting emphasis on the sustainabilty of progress, doing development has become a more delicate task to do. But apparently, not every country has the awareness and capacity, or will, to make a U-turn in terms of development.
In fact, Indonesia, who is longing to be placed in the same group as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, finds itself entrenched in an old and classical hit and run approach of doing development. Proof to this is the plan called Masterplan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia Economic Development (or MP3EI), which serves as a new bible in boosting domestic economy and investment, acting as a catalyst in the purpose of achieving 7 percent economic growth rate by 2014.
Through MP3EI, the government targets to be among the world’s developed country by 2025 with an expected per capita income of USD 14,250-USD 15,500. MP3EI promises to deliver new projects which will boost 22 economic sectors in 6 main areas, chosen and designed according to the vast, and mainly natural, resources available in the respective regions. The main aim here is to lure private assistance, mainly in terms of financial investment and cooperation in order to leverage local economy and create new job opportunities. Another feature is to invite investors in infrastructure, with the government arguing that it has very limited funds to finance development and to build infrastructure all alone. The government claims MP3EI to be not just business as usual, but rather to transform the economy. Yet the keyword remains all the way the same: growth.
MP3EI is primarily designed as a short term plan in order to gain fast and feasible results, in order to increase economic growth and PDB. The enormous amount of funds and projects dedicated in the plan can only indicate that it favors big investments and concessions which do not guarantee the improvement of people’s welfare in any way. It is clearly the antithesis of an ideal type of a development current.
Moreover, the main principles on which MP3EI are laid upon clearly defies the ideas of a sustainable, humane and environmentally sound path of development. MP3EI also contradicts other aims of SBY’s administration, such as the goal of a decline of greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent, and other promises of poverty reduction and land reform. The industrial approach of MP3EI shows potential in blowing up tenurial conflicts, caused by hasty land grabbing, which between 2009-2011 has already caused 14.377 conflicts between investors and land owners, mostly peasants. It is widely known that a precondition of success in implementing MP3EI is the provision of land use for infrastructure, whilst land itself is becoming more scarce for peasants and small farmers.
The most important question here to ask is probably about the position of the people. As boldly explained by Mahbub Ul Haq, renowned scholar and initiator of UN’s Human Development Index, human welfare—not GNP—is the true end of development. Thus, the writer agrees with Ul Haq’s view that the purpose of development is to enlarge all human choices, not just income.
Believing that economic development will have a trickling down effect is as outdated as believing that economic growth has a direct correlation to human welfare. While it has some impact, relying only on economic power is dangerous and naive, and surely not the way forward, as the Green Economy report as an output of the Rio+20 and recent history has suggested.
MP3EI is for sure an economic masterplan, but then again it leaves us to question the government’s initiative in investing in society, in the people. Too often has human capital been left out of the development equation, undermined by economic indicators. A simple way of measuring this is to compare Indonesia’s economic success, where it has joined the G20 and rates as highly lucrative country to invest , with its sluggish performance in the Human Development Index. In fact, human quality does not follow economic performance. This is perfectly portrayed by the quote “The Economy is just fine. It’s just the people that aren’t”, which was said by a brazilian general to Noam Chomsky in an anecdote.
Hence, investments must be first and foremost made in the people, and only then can development essentially have a meaning. Otherwise we will be only repeating the same mistakes over and over again. And In the midst of global and local shouts for a green and sustainable way of doing development, MP3EI is clearly a paradox within idealistic visions, and speeches.