Poverty in a rich country

I’m in Jakarta, and discussing the state of Indonesia (you know, solving the world’s problems after dinner). The most pertinent comment:

“This is not a poor country. It’s a rich country with lots of poor people.”

As in many other countries, there’s no sign of a major change in the distribution of wealth any time soon. So is there hope for the majority of Indonesians? Fortunately, yes. For one thing, economic conditions in absolute terms seems to be  picking up; and importantly, health and quality of life are not a simple matter of money. Kerala is a fascinating alternative model of development.

I’ve been spending time here since 1995, late in the Soeharto era, and I’ve seen many changes for the better, and a few big changes for the worse. I like to think of myself as a realistic optimistist – I know that things can and do go wrong, but it’s possible to choose a different path.