Sejak tahun 1990an, ketimpangan di Indonesia naik lebih pesat dibanding negara Asia Timur manapun selain Tiongkok. Pada tahun 2002, konsumsi 10% rumahtangga terkaya setara dengan konsumsi 42% rumahtangga termiskin. Bahkan pada tahun 2014, naik menjadi 54%. Mengapa kita perlu khawatir mengenai tren ini? Apa penyebabnya, dan bagaimana pemerintah yang sekarang bisa mengatasi naiknya ketimpangan? Apa saja yang perlu dilakukan?
Ketimpangan tidak selalu buruk; ketimpangan bisa memberi penghargaan bagi mereka yang bekerja keras dan berani mengambil risiko. Tetapi ketimpangan yang tinggi itu mengkhawatirkan dan bukan hanya karena alasan keadilan. Ketimpangan tinggi bisa berdampak pada pertumbuhan ekonomi, memperparah konflik, dan menghambat potensi generasi sekarang dan masa depan. Contohnya, riset baru mengindikasikan bahwa secara rata-rata, ketika porsi besar pendapatan nasional dinikmati oleh seperlima rumahtangga terkaya, pertumbuhan ekonomi melambat – sementara negara bisa tumbuh lebih cepat ketika seperlima rumahtangga termiskin menerima lebih banyak.
Since the 1990s, inequality has risen faster in Indonesia than in any other East Asian country apart from China. In 2002, the richest 10 per cent of households consumed as much as the poorest 42 per cent. By 2014, they consumed as much as the poorest 54 per cent. Why should we be worried about this trend? What is causing it, and how is the current administration addressing rising inequality? And what still needs to be done?
Inequality is not always bad; it can provide rewards for those who work hard and take risks. But high inequality is worrying for reasons beyond fairness. High inequality can impact economic growth, exacerbate conflict, and curb the potential of current and future generations. For example, recent research indicates that, on average, when a higher share of national income goes to the richest fifth of households, economic growth slows—whereas countries grow more quickly when the poorest two-fifths receive more.
If you could make one New Year’s wish for your country, what would it be?
For many Malaysians, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wish for “a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society” likely resonated with their hopes for 2015.
Malaysians appear to be increasingly concerned about income inequality. According to a 2014 Pew Global survey, 77% of Malaysians think that the gap between the rich and poor is a big problem. The government has acknowledged that inequality remains high, and that tackling these disparities will be Malaysia’s “biggest challenge” in becoming a high-income nation.
How can Malaysia narrow the gap between the rich and poor? Global experience suggests two possible levers to achieve a more equitable income distribution.
When we visited a poor village in Qingxing county of north Guangdong a few weeks ago to work on a study of inequality, I was struck by the severity of poverty in places only a few hours away from the most dynamic and prosperous Pearl River Delta. One family that we visited had almost no furniture. Another only lived on 90 yuan (US$13) per month from the social assistance program.