Five years to Millennium Development Goals deadline

Daily News Egypt
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JAKARTA: The 2015 deadline set by the United Nations Millennium Declaration to improve human development is fast approaching. Goals that 189 countries signed onto include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability by developing a global partnership. The commitments make up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

There have been positive developments in the last nine years, but as the 2009 UN Millennium Report admits, the world is “moving too slowly to meet the goals . The report specifically mentions regions that are slow in achieving MDGs: sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is one country with less than satisfactory levels of success in achieving MDGs. The country has committed to reducing the percentage of the total population living in poverty to 7.5 percent by 2015. However, data from the Indonesian Central Statistic Bureau (BPS) as recently as 2008 shows 15.4 percent of the population living below the poverty line. The Asian Development Bank’s report “Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2009 also shows an increase in the rate of maternal mortality and HIV/Aids.

One of the biggest challenges that Indonesia faces in achieving the MDGs is foreign debt. Other challenges include corruption and inconsistencies between its macroeconomic policy and its measures to combat poverty.

In August 2009, as reported by the Indonesian Central Bank (BI), Indonesia’s foreign debt reached about $165 billion. The recent budget statistics published by the Ministry of Finance show that the budget allocated to foreign debt is higher than either its education or health sector budgets: in 2009, Indonesia allocated approximately $10.4 billion to pay its foreign debt and interest (not including payment for domestic debt), but only $9 billion for education and $1.7 billion for health.

Indonesia recognizes the burden of foreign debt in financing its MDG efforts. During the Millenium+5 Summit in September 2005, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for the reduction or omission of foreign debt as a means of achieving its MDGs. And Indonesia has obtained debt reductions from countries such as Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. However, they are not enough to lift the country’s debt burden.

Yudhoyono also said that he would hold developed countries, particularly the G8, to their commitment to increase their budgets for poverty eradication.

As reflected in the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, developed countries are expected to allocate 0.7 percent of their GDP to helping developing countries achieve their MDGs. Unfortunately, according to the MDGs Gap Task Force Report in 2008, only Scandinavian countries are fulfilling this commitment, while others are still far from reaching their expected contribution.

In addition, the development assistance offered by developed countries often comes with conditions, requiring recipients to use consultants and goods from donor countries, meaning that the donor country reaps direct financial benefits from the aid money it gives.

The fact that much of the money given by developing countries is in the form of loans creates further problems. Of the $29.6 million given to Indonesia by Japan, for instance, only $1.9 million – or approximately 6.55 percent – is given as a grant; the remaining money takes the form of loans and technical assistance.

With only five years before the 2015 deadline, developing countries are reaching out to remind their wealthier neighbors of their commitment to accelerate the achievement of MDGs, sometimes with creative suggestions. For example, one concrete step might be the establishment of a UN Trust Fund for the Achievement of MDGs.

Meanwhile, Indonesia needs to continue its efforts to negotiate a debt omission or reduction program, to take advantage of global non-loan funding schemes, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Millennium Challenge Account, and to clean up internal impediments to achieving the MDGs, including addressing corruption and revamping its economic policy.

In the international diplomacy arena, Indonesia needs to work closely with developed countries, to remind them of their funding commitment made at the Monterrey Consensus and find creative, collaborative solutions for reducing poverty around the world.

Wahyu Susilo heads the Advocacy Division of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID). This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews),

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