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Indonesia's poverty rate may double

Associated Press - June 22, 1998 (abridged)

Christopher Torchia, Jakarta – Indonesia's poverty rate may double, stripping at least 20 million people of their jobs, a World Bank official warned Monday in one of his bleakest assessments yet of the Asian nation's economic upheaval.

The financial crisis "just does not seem to want to go away," said Dennis de Tray, the bank's director in Indonesia, adding that the bank has had trouble keeping pace with the turmoil. "The changes here have been completely unpredictable," de Tray told a news conference, referring to the unrest that led last month to the resignation of former President Suharto, Indonesia's leader for 32 years.

De Tray spoke as the International Monetary Fund prepared to resume its $43 billion bailout package for Indonesia. The loans were suspended last month because of the political instability.

About 28 million of Indonesia's 200 million people currently live in poverty and that figure could double, de Tray said. The mushrooming poverty will strip at least 20 million people of their jobs and unleash more ethnic trouble and common crime, he said.

[The state news agency, Antara, reported on June 24, that the number of poor people had in fact declined this year. It quoted Ida Bagus Oka, minister for population and the National Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) as saying according to their data, the number of families in poverty dropped from 42.1% to 38.5%. When asked how the current economic crisis had affected this he said that BKKBN "still had no data" - James Balowski.]