Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Debt relief essential for food security in Indonesia, says President Soekarnoputri

Indonesia, 10 Jun 2002 -- Rome – Foreign debt obligations brought on by the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s are a major obstacle to tackling hunger and poverty in Indonesia, the leader of the Southeast Asian nation worst hit by that crisis told world leaders meeting here for a UN food summit.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri told the 10 to 13 June 2002 World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl), which has been convened by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that although the summit was not the right forum for such a debate, it had to take note of Indonesia’s concern.

“We have no intention of raising the issue for consideration by this August gathering, as we are fully aware of the availability of more appropriate for a for such a debate to take place. Nevertheless, without an effective solution to the debt problem and flexibility by financing governments of institutions for its rescheduling, I am afraid, efforts to fight poverty and to accomplish food security will only be distanced from us,” she said.

“Our hard work for tens of year was almost wiped out (by the Asian economic crisis),” she pointed out. The national poverty level, which had declined from over 40 percent of the population in 1976 to about 11 percent in 1996, more than doubled to 24.3 percent by the end of 1998.

“Not only do the poverty and the decrease in purchasing power present enormous problems, but also pose obstacles to the implementation of agriculture and food programs. We are in a situation where it seems we have to work from the start. …experience shows that many of the obstacles we are increasingly encountering are not only the result of our limited national resources, but are also caused by the payment of our foreign debt obligations,” Ms Soekarnoputri said.

The Indonesia president is among the 15 Heads of State and Government from Asia-Pacific countries attending the summit where top government leaders and officials from 180 nations are present. The meeting has been convened to mobilise the political will and resources needed to speed up progress toward meeting the pledge by world leaders at the November 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) also held at FAO headquarters in Rome.

According to the most recent food security estimates by FAO, Asia and the Pacific has moved faster than other parts of the developing world toward the WFS goal of reducing global hunger by half by the year 2015. However, the region is still far short of the rate needed to do this in time, particularly in South Asia.

[…] Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific need assistance to prepare for world trade liberalization. The Fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) held in Doha, Qatar in 2001 has raised hopes of a fair deal for developing countries in the emerging global agricultural trade regime.

A serious threat to regional food security arises from the multitude of recurring natural disasters. Persisting civil strife in some parts of the region also took their toll on food security with large chunks of agricultural land uncultivated due to the presence of land mines.

RAP 02/24

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