Four richest Indonesians wealthier than 100 million poorest in country, says Oxfam study

In 2016 collective wealth of these four persons was 25 billion dollars


Afp February 23, 2017
Startling Oxfam study elucidates the burgeoning economic gap in Indonesia. CREATIVE COMMONS

JAKARATA: The four richest Indonesians are wealthier than the poorest 100 million people in the country.

This was the crux of a startling new study by Oxfam which underscores how huge numbers have been left behind as the economy booms.

The new study claims that the Indonesian President Joko Widodo failed to fulfil pledges to fight inequality.

Furthermore, it called on the government to urgently increase spending on public services and make corporations and the wealthy pay more tax.

Indonesia has enjoyed an economic boom that has reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty, however, the gap between rich and poor has risen faster than in any other South-east Asian country in the past 20 years, the Oxfam study said.

Growing inequality threatens to pull societies apart

"The benefits of growth have not been shared equally, and millions have been left behind," said the research, which was released earlier this week.

"The widening of the gap between the rich and the rest is a serious threat to Indonesia's future prosperity.''

It went on to add that if inequality is not tackled, then reducing poverty will be much more difficult, and social instability could also increase.

In 2016, the collective wealth of the four richest Indonesians, all men, was $25 billion, according to the study.

This was more than the total wealth of the 100 million poorest, out of a population of 255 million, it said.

According to Forbes rich list, the wealthiest included three tobacco tycoons -- brothers Michael and Budi Hartono, and Susilo Wonowidjojo.

The study said inequality has been rising since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which led to the introduction of more free market policies.

This shift allowed those at the top to capture the greatest share of the benefits of years of strong growth, it said.

The study pointed to rising inequality within cities, and between urban and rural areas.

Oxfam said Indonesia's taxation system had failed to play a role in redistributing wealth as it was not collecting nearly as much revenue as it should, while an underfunded education system was stopping many from getting better jobs.

In January of this year, the government launched a major programme to tackle inequality that included measures aimed at helping poor farmers and fishermen, improving the tax system and providing more opportunities for vocational training.

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