Jakarta activists call for local initiatives

15 April 2000

NGO activists in Jakarta wrote an open letter to World Bank President James Wolfensohn in February, asking him to meet directly with the people to hear their own solutions to reverse Indonesia’s economic decline based on small-scale, local initiatives, “We feel that your money and programs with their sophisticated technology, instruments and international and local experts impose new ways on us. We are scared that your money and programs, even with all your good intentions, will harm us.”

They claim that the Bank’s efforts to hear civil society has failed “because you [the World Bank] use the government, private consultants and companies as channels of communication to us. They do not really care about us.” Programmes are applied too hastily in too many districts and encourage the development of new institutions instead of building on traditional ones which means that local people lose control and ownership of them.

Criticising the Bank’s objectives they point out that “Your focus on numbers and concrete structures is not always useful for measuring the success and happiness of our lives. The benefits we receive often cannot be seen or measured. Ultimately, our joy and success comes not from the accumulation of wealth or material possessions but from working together in a good environment and sharing and caring for each other.”

They call on the Bank to fund small pilot programs which can demonstrate success.

Also, the Anti-Debt Coalition – an Indonesian civil society coalition comprising 144 organisations of workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women non-governmental groups and students – is calling for debt forgiveness and rejects structural adjustment lending.

They urged the Indonesian government, World Bank, ADB and bilateral donors to cancel all Indonesia’s foreign debt incurred by the previous regime;

stop the conversion of private debt to public debt including the signing of contracts between state-owned and foreign companies;

set up an independent investigation into the use of all loans to Indonesia.