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The rich should marry the poor to reduce poverty rate, says Indonesian minister

/ 02:14 PM February 20, 2020

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy waves toward journalists as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (unseen) unveils his new Cabinet on the steps of Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Oct. 23, 2019. The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network/Seto Wardhana

JAKARTA — Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy has suggested the country’s rich people should marry those from low-income families, arguing that such cross-class marriages can contribute to reducing the national poverty rate.

Muhadjir said that in Indonesia — the country with the world’s largest Muslim population — religious teachings on “looking for an equivalent match” for marriage had been often misinterpreted.

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“What happened if poor people are looking for other poor people [for marriage]? There will be more poor households. This is a problem in Indonesia,” Muhadjir said in his opening speech at the National Health Work Meeting in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Citing government data, the former education and culture minister said the number of poor households in the archipelago was roughly 5 million.

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“The number of Indonesian households is 57.1 million, 9.4 percent or 5 million of which are categorized as poor. If added to the near-poor households, it is about 16.8 percent or about 15 million households,” Muhadjir said as quoted by tempo.co.

He said the increase in poverty was also in line with an increase of illnesses such as stunting. Therefore, he continued, issuing a “fatwa” to require such cross-class marriages could be a solution.

Muhadjir suggested Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi issue a fatwa ordering that “the poor are required to look for the rich [for marriage] and the rich should look for the poor”.

In Indonesia, however, issuing a fatwa is not the duty of a religious affairs minister as a fatwa is normally issued by Muslim organizations, including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), after comprehensive studies by the Fatwa Commission or religious experts who have competence in the relevant areas.

In addition to the fatwa, Muhadjir also proposed a premarital certification program, under which couples who were not yet economically stable but sought to get married must receive a pre-employment card from a program launched by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Muhadjir said that such a premarital program, which he claimed had been implemented by several countries such as Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, would push down the rate of new poor families in Indonesia.

“The goal is that after marriage, the couples will form economically stable households,” said Muhadjir.

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The World Bank has recently reported that approximately 115 million Indonesians, 45 percent of the country’s population, have yet to achieve economic security and the lifestyle of the middle class.

However, it also mentioned that Indonesia had made progress reducing poverty over the past 15 years, pushing it down to less than 10 percent, and the middle class had grown from 7 percent to 20 percent of the population during the period.

Jokowi said in his inaugural speech in October last year that he had a vision to transform the country into a developed country with a gross domestic product among the top five in the world and a near-zero percent poverty rate.

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TAGS: Asia, Indonesia, Muhadjir Effendy, poverty rate
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