Back in 2009, Ratih Purwindah, a 25-year-old newly appointed sanitation district facilitator, was not invited to sit in the car to travel with delegates from Indonesia’s Ngawi District to participate in the East Java province rural sanitation review meeting. Instead, Ratih was asked to take a bus the 180 km to Surabaya, even though there were vacant seats in the delegation’s car. She also did not get a desk at the district’s office. Five years onwards, this has changed and Ratih is now the provincial coordinator for the government’s sanitation program in Central Java. District sanitation facilitators working with her are recognized and empowered within District Health offices. Ratih’s personal journey is a testament to the systemic changes that have taken place in Indonesia. With a focus on district-wide sanitation service delivery, Indonesia is accelerating access from below 1% to 2-3% a year and catching up to achieve the sanitation MDG.
What I remember most of the first hours after learning about the tsunami was radio silence. Aceh, it seemed, had ceased to exist. The limited infrastructure in Indonesia’s northernmost province was decimated and none of the survivors was able to update the outside world.
To understand the scope of what had happened I flew to Aceh the following day. Since then I have carried with me indelible images of survivors who had nothing left but the clothes on their bodies. There were remnants of lives swept away, of loved ones who disappeared, and a desert of mud and debris beyond repair.
The death toll kept on rising for weeks. In the end, of the over 230,000 people who died in 14 countries, 220,000 were from Aceh. We estimated the disaster had caused damage worth $4.45 billion.
Ten years after the tsunami, I remember the loss of lives not only as the tragedy it was, but as a moment that changed the way the world manages disasters. I take some consolation from the fact that people survive disasters more often today because of the lessons we learned from the tsunami that affected so many of my fellow Indonesians.
There are three conclusions that are critical to our experience.
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This post was originally posted on January 08, 2014
Inspired by Jeremy Adelman’s wonderful biography of Albert Hirschman (Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman, Princeton University Press, 2013), I’ve read and reread Hirschman’s masterpiece, Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, (Harvard University Press, 1970) and his follow up essay “Exit, Voice, and State” (reprinted in The Essential Hirschman, Princeton University Press, 2013). Although Hirschman produced these works over 40 years ago, his simple model of flight (“exit”) or resistance (“voice”) in the face of unsatisfactory economic, political or social conditions remains highly relevant for policymakers and development practitioners concerned with eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality, and improving basic services accessible to the poor.
Hirschman’s ideas provide much cause for reflection within the context of present-day Indonesia. Indonesia has enjoyed over a decade of macroeconomic stability and economic growth. From 2000 to 2011 GDP expanded by 5.3 percent per year, and the official poverty count halved from 24 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2012. This period also saw notable improvements in health and education. Access to education has become more widespread and equitable. Girls are now as likely as boys to graduate from secondary school. In health, Indonesia is on track to meet Millennium Development Goals for reducing both the prevalence of underweight children under five years old, and the under-five mortality rate.
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It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. – Sherlock Holmes.
It's a game changer for those working on Indonesia's sub-national development issues. Comprehensive data at the sub-national level is now available to the public through INDO-DAPOER (Indonesia Data for Policy and Economics Research) at data.worldbank.org. DAPOER, which means ‘kitchen’ in Indonesian, is intended to be a ‘place’ where various data are blended, like spices, and cooked to produce analytical works, research papers, and policy notes.
INDO-DAPOER is the first World Bank sub-national database consisting of both province and district level data to be publicly accessible from anywhere in the world. The database provides access to around 200 indicators from almost 500 districts and 34 provinces in Indonesia, which in general go back to the early 1990s and even 1980s for some. The indicators are grouped into four main categories: fiscal, economic, social demographic, and infrastructure. Indicators range from sub-national government revenue and expenditure, sub-national GDP, to specific education, health, and infrastructure indicators such as net enrollment rate for junior secondary, immunization rate, and household access to safe sanitation.