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Jokowi, Prabowo tout nationalist approach in economic plans

Indonesia's presidential candidates Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, in presenting their economic policies to voters during a second televised debate, touted a more nationalistic approach.

JAKARTA: Indonesia's two presidential candidates had taken turns to present their economic policies to voters during a second televised debate.

Both Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto touted a more nationalistic approach in their economic plans on Sunday.

There was little to separate the economic plans proposed by the two candidates.

At one point during the TV debate, Mr Prabowo conceded that he agreed with Mr Joko Widodo's ideas on developing Indonesia's creative economy.

His only child - seated among the audience - has made a name as a fashion designer in Europe and the US.

But Mr Prabowo - a former general - wants big government spending to fuel growth that would bring about greater prosperity to Indonesians.

He said: "Ours is the big push strategy. We can't afford to play around with the challenges facing us."

And he believes that Indonesia can afford to fund its spending if it is able to plug the wealth leaving the country.

For Mr Joko Widodo - who is often better known by his nickname Jokowi - he focuses more on a bottoms-up approach - creating opportunities and an environment for small and medium enterprises to prosper and fuel the country's growth.

He said Indonesia must protect its domestic economy when the ASEAN Economic Community comes on stream in 2015.

This includes protecting its lucrative banking sector.

He said: "I believe Bank Indonesia has regulations that can act as barriers for foreign interests from easily coming into our country. We've seen how difficult it is for Indonesian banks to set up branches in neighbouring countries."

It appears from the debate that the country's next president would be less friendly to foreign investors.

But analysts said those are mere campaign rhetoric designed to win votes.

Lin Che Wei, founder of Independent Research & Advisory Indonesia, said: "To fill that gap for the growth, Indonesia needs investment. And foreign investment is one of the key elements to plug the gap. And I think it is just a matter of time before they come back to the previous theme, that is, investor-friendly climate."

Besides having to create a conducive climate for foreign investors to boost growth, analysts said the next Indonesian president is unlikely to be able to fulfill most of his big campaign promises.

He would have limited policy options because of the way the state budget is structured, and changing it would require enormous political will from the next President.

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