Indonesian Minister Under Fire After Suggesting 'the Rich Should Marry the Poor' to Reduce Poverty Rate

Published February 21st, 2020 - 03:13 GMT

An Indonesian minister has caused an uproar after he proposed for the rich to marry the poor as a means to reduce the country’s poverty rate.

“What would happen if poor people looked for other poor people for marriage? There will be more poor households,” said Muhadjir Effendy, the Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister, according to Jakarta Post. 

“This is a problem in Indonesia,” he added. 

The minister said there are about five million poor households in Indonesia, which account for 9.4 percent of the total households of 57.1 million. 

“If near-poor households are added as well, there are 16.8 percent or about 15 million households with low income,” he argued.

Effendy suggested to the Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi to issue a fatwa ordering the poor to look for the rich (for marriage), and vice versa. 

In addition to that, he also proposed a pre-marital certification programme for couples who are not economically stable but wish to get married to sign up for an employment programme launched by President Joko Widodo. 

“Such premarital programmes would help push down the rate of new poor families in Indonesia,” said Effendy. 

In response, the Indonesian Ulema Council, which is among the Muslim organisations in charge of issuing fatwas, welcomed Effendy’s proposal. The secretary-general Anwar Abbas said it “epitomised the spirit of helping each other.”

“There are many poor families and sometimes there are widows left behind by their husbands. They have to raise their children while making a living,” he said. 

“If there is a rich man who likes her, and she likes him as well, then great,” he added. 

"A poor family will be lifted to become rich, and the number of poor people will be reduced,” said Abbas. “The minister’s proposal has two benefits… First, poverty will be reduced. Second, if realized, wealth will not just circulate among the rich."

This is not the first time that Muhadjir Effendy has made a controversial remark. 

In the past, the minister stirred quite the debate after he told teachers in Indonesia who feel they earn little “not to worry” as they would “go to heaven.”

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