Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 05:25 WIB

Pope Francis, Prabowo Subianto and the impoverished and marginalized

Jakarta, IO – This article depicts the words Prabowo conveyed when I previously met him on two different occasions. They represent General Prabowo’s feelings, thoughts, ideas and compassion for the vulnerable people in Indonesia and around the world.

“Natalius, how are you? How about the children’s school, their food and health?” the exact words Prabowo uttered when we met – words rarely spoken by Indonesian and world elites. 

“I did come from this nation’s elites, a descendant of the elites. But I’m also one of the nation’s elites whose heart is for the people and who can share with them,” said Prabowo in 2019.

Pope Francis surprised world leaders with his message when he was inaugurated as the supreme leader of the Catholic church at the Vatican. He emphasized the importance of state intervention to eradicate poverty and illiteracy across the globe. 

Nevertheless, some people mindlessly justify the trickle-down theory – naively and unwarily, as in the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. 

These days, we “shalt” not pursue exclusive and unfair economic policies. The Pope also restored the values of faith (fidelis), hope (expectation) and love (caritate) that he announced to the city (of Rome) and the World (Urbi et Orbi) in the St. Peter’s Basilica in his Christmas message on December 25, 2018. The Pope accentuated the importance of not rejoicing about the sufferings of the poor and the marginalized. 

The ethical role of the church is in the public interest (bonum commune), siding with the weak (option for the poor), sharing (subsidiarity), boundless solidarity and being an articulator of justice seekers (voice of the voiceless). 

Two years later, on June 25, 2015, IMF Director Christine Lagarde made a similar statement to Pope Francis, pointing out that the trickle-down system had not improved income or welfare but created injustice in almost every country. 

The rich get richer. The wealth does not trickle down. Likewise, on July 7, 2015, Hillary Clinton stated that Americans should no longer carry out failed economic policies. The time has come to bury this trickle-down theory in the ground. 

Pope Francis’ opinion seems contrary to the Government that has, since ancient times, led Indonesia to potentially become a failed country. This was the reason Prabowo Subianto brought up “Why Nations Fail”. 

Why Nations Fail is a book by Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson; it is pretty intriguing to analyze the thesis of Government in developing the country and the nation from 1945 until now. 

Development economists in the Government circle have not been thinking out of the box regarding the development direction. The Government must analyze and reformulate the national development plan, which is oriented towards two main problems: poverty alleviation (prosperity) and distribution of justice. 

Since long ago, the power worshippers of this nation have hypothesized that the state failed because of the infrastructure gap between the rich and poor countries. 

This proves wrong! The numerous investments and ambition to metamorphose accessibility and transportation modes on land, sea and air do not necessarily make Indonesia a developed country. This country could even go under due to its incompetence in technological, human and financial resources, ultimately ending up in a debt trap. 

Take these as an example: the United States and Mexico, North Korea and South Korea and East and West Germany. Even before reunification, there was a gap between rich and poor countries, even though they had almost the same impressive infrastructure. 

Natalius Pigai
Natalius Pigai, Special staff to the Manpower and Transmigration Minister 1999-2004 and humanitarian activist

Therefore, focusing on infrastructure development in order to catch up with other countries will not save Indonesia from being a potentially failed nation. 

Why Nations Fail explicitly explains that a nation fails because its extractive economic resources are controlled by only a few people (oligarchs) who are supported by politics and power. 

Prabowo Subianto is a nationalist and patriot who has long fought for Indonesia to become a nation that is not only independent but sovereign, a nation that does not easily fall under the penetration and hegemony of a capitalistic economy. 

Prabowo refuses to have Indonesia as a comprador of capitalism, when it would fight and survive in helplessness while the poor are threatened, and the nation falls into the abyss of poverty. 

The state must be the pioneer and trailblazer that intervenes to save the people. Prabowo even proposes that the subject of development should carried out through a lasting partnership between the state and the people. 

It includes not only public-private partnerships (PPP) but also public-state partnerships (PSP). Prabowo is the antithesis of all the leaders who made economic resources concentrated in the economic oligarchy, economic resources pawned to foreign investment and national development dominated by the private sector. 

In his book, Paradox Indonesia (the Paradox of Indonesia), Prabowo Subianto explicitly and strongly expected the Government to act as a pioneer, to proactively bring prosperity for the people, alleviate poverty, create jobs, build facilities and infrastructure and develop human resources through knowledge, skills and mental and moral attitudes. 

Prabowo Subianto’s vision is to bring development to the poor and marginalized people and those in rural areas. He wishes to change national development, which has been centered in cities as service centers and industrial areas as growth centers. 

Indeed, Prabowo aspires to treat deep-seated wounds caused by extreme disparities in development and social economy, between Eastern and Western Indonesia and between villages and cities. 

Prabowo realized that in the past, people living in the countryside were victimized by economists called the Berkeley Mafia, who designed the country with a capitalist system to create oligarchic groups and promoted liberal ideas that crushed the natives’ (Pribumi) perspective, one guided by local values. 

As a result, the local people have no ability to compete in the business world, nor can they enter the employment market, which requires competency standardization and certification. Their knowledge, skills and work attitudes are dejectedly lower than in other countries. 

In Paradox Indonesia, Prabowo conveys his commitment to the impoverished, to building Indonesia based on the villages, which is an antithesis to the concept of the trickle-down effect widespread in the Southern Hemisphere third-world from the 70s until the mid-90s. 

This development concept was popular with development economics lecturers at well-known universities in the third world, including Gajah Mada University (UGM) Yogyakarta and the University of Indonesia (UI), except for Prof. Dr. Mubyarto. He was the initiator of the Presidential Instruction on Disadvantaged Villages (popular in the Javanese community as iki duit tangkarko, meaning this is my pocket money), an opposition to bourgeois capitalism and liberalism concepts. 

Regrettably, Mubyarto, the champion of the Pancasila economy, fought alone, was ignored and was never given a strategic role in this country. For more than 50 years, the colleges of rural community development have been ignored, and the village government science majors and village development social science majors have been held in disdain. 

As a matter of fact, Prabowo Subianto aims to revive the practice of developing Indonesia from the periphery, which has long been buried. 

In Tanzania, both Zanzibar and Tanganyika, Prof. Julius Nyerere implemented the Ujamaa (familyhood or brotherhood) socialism concept, which reawakened the national spirit by stimulating agribusiness in rural areas. 

Likewise, the Felda (Federal Land Development Authority) concept is implemented in Malaysia, where the wheels of economic growth are turned by the plantation industry by mobilizing human resources in Felda areas. 

Similarly, Saemaul Undong (New Community Movement) in South Korea focuses on building a city from the outskirts. 

In the second half of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Indonesia also learned from Tanzania, especially the concepts of transmigration and village development. The footprint of Julius Nyerere’s visit in 1981 was left at a senior high school in Baturaja, South Sumatra. 

Hence, village-based development was actually implemented in Indonesia, and as a result, we could become an independent and sovereign nation through food self-sufficiency. 

Now the question is, what are the actual programs and novelty of developing Indonesia? The Indonesian people have been long deceived, due to the Government’s lack of concepts and implementation, from 1945 to 2023. 

Before questioning the actual programs, we also need to ask another question about the original intention of building a normative Indonesia, as this concept has existed even before Jokowi’s (Indonesian President Joko Widodo) administration, way before Indonesia’s independence. 

Grobogan and Purwodadi residents were colonized and moved to Kedong Tataan, Kalianda, South Lampung through Dutch ethical politics, based on the effort of Douwes Dekker or Suwardi Suryaninggrat and others in 1912. This story was described well in a book titled Ayo Ke Tanah Sabrang (Let’s Go to the Land Beyond) by French researcher Patric Levang. 

After Indonesia gained independence in 1945, the colonization program was named “transmigration”. This term is unique to the Indonesian nation, Indonesia’s original program, since this term is not found in other language dictionaries, including in the world’s most comprehensive encyclopedia, Britannica and Americana. 

So, what novelty does Prabowo’s upcoming programs offer? The answer is concrete steps to implement his visions in his homeland. 

The promise of developing the people has touched people’s feelings – the poor and the marginalized. Corruption cases in village infrastructure projects and village funds by village administrators and the Village Ministry have been rife not only during Jokowi’s administration but also before. This convinces us that the intention for the poor is merely a symbolic adage, an unsubstantial aspiration or even a utopia for change. 

Prabowo comprehends that people in the villages were born and raised in remote and isolated areas, far from the hustle and bustle of modernization; even villages are often associated with the fringes of development. 

Poverty and illiteracy rampant in the villages are often capitalized upon by the rulers and politicians for their own interests. After they are in power, the village people are left in the lurch. 

Read: The People Of Maluku Deserve Comfortable Public Transportation

The Government already has adequate resources in terms of budget, personnel and facilities. What it needs is a leader who is empathetic, sincere and consistent in building the villages. Nowadays, the village budget is quite large; in fact, it is the largest in Indonesian history. 

In addition to the IDR 170 trillion of the village development budget at the Village Ministry, the funds can also be found in various work units, such as Public Works and Housing Ministry, Social Affairs Ministry, Education Ministry, Health Ministry, Cooperatives Ministry and Home Affairs Ministry. 

We must have the will to change, a revolution of thought (Revolusi normain), and be crazy enough to develop this country.

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