Economic development the main focus in first 100 days of Jokowi’s final term in office: Analysts

Economic development the main focus in first 100 days of Jokowi’s final term in office: Analysts

Indonesian president Joko Widodo and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin
Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin introduce members of their new cabinet on the steps of the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Oct 23, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Adek Berry)

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has prioritised economic development during the first 100 days of his last term in office, say analysts interviewed by CNA, adding that other matters like the environment and legal reforms may have taken a backseat.

This approach is in stark contrast with Mr Widodo's first term in office, where he quickly tackled an array of issues like the law, security and economy.

In every public occasion during the last few months, the Indonesian leader, popularly known as Jokowi, has spoken about global economic challenges and investment, noted political analyst Yunarto Wijaya from think-tank Charta Politika.

“This has its consequences and risks. Other sectors are being less prioritised,” Mr Wijaya said.

"This is a good sign for investors and economists, but on the other hand, it creates a big risk for those not in that sector such as law enforcers, corruption eradicators, environmentalists, and human rights defenders."

QUESTIONS OVER VIABILITY OF NEW CAPITAL CITY

It appears that the development of a new capital city in East Kalimantan province by 2024 is high among Jokowi's list of priorities.

The programme to move the capital would cost about 466 trillion rupiah (US$34.16 billion), of which the state would fund 19 per cent, and the rest to come from public-private partnerships and private investment. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo walks as he inspects an area, planned to be the location of Indone
Indonesian President Joko Widodo walks as he inspects an area, planned to be the location of Indonesia's new capital, at Sepaku district in North Penajam Paser regency. (Photo: Antara Foto/Akbar Nugroho Gumay via REUTERS)

READ: New Indonesian capital offers opportunities for development, but environmental pitfalls abound 

“When we look at how Jokowi is struggling to cope with global economic challenges, it is not a realistic programme," said Mr Wijaya.

"At a time when the world, including Indonesia, is facing huge economic challenges, it is actually not realistic to embark on a long-term policy which is expensive and the outcome will only be felt in the long-term.” 

Earlier this month, the government said Japanese tech conglomerate Softbank has offered to invest in the new capital. The United Arab Emirates has also said it would support the initiative.

READ: Indonesian minister says SoftBank offering to invest up to US$40 billion in new capital

Mr Edbert Gani, a political economist from Jakarta-based think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) highlighted that the plan to relocate the capital also comes at the cost of potentially neglecting the environment.

“This plan to relocate the capital has always been Jokowi’s dream since his first term given the fact that Jakarta cannot handle the burden (of being the capital) anymore…

"But we have heard much criticism, whether from within (Indonesia) or internationally about our environment. Our politics are very distant from environmental issues, and of particular note is that Kalimantan is one of the places which is being exploited the most (for its natural resources),” he said.

READ: New Indonesia capital: Land prices set to soar but not all locals thrilled

He believes that arguments in favour of environmental conservation are being sidelined when it comes to the new capital. 

“The credibility (of the government) in this context will ultimately affect the other plans of the government,” Mr Gani added.

LEGAL REFORMS IN LIMBO

Despite of talk of pushing through legal reforms prior to the inauguration on Oct 20 last year, it now appears that the progress has been less than ideal. 

Since the end of his first term, the president has been speaking about omnibus laws that are slated to replace dozens of overlapping policies to improve investment. However, these laws are still at the discussion stage.

University students and members of Indonesian labour organisations take part in a protest over huma
University students and members of Indonesian labour organisations take part in a protest over human rights, corruption and social and environmental issues in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct 28, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan)

Ms Bivitri Susanti, a law and political analyst from Indonesia’s School of Law Jentera said that law reforms, which is a key component to Jokowi's mission and vision, have failed to move forward. 

"We can see that the law, corruption eradication and human rights are being put in the sub, sub, sub-field. So it’s not a priority. The priority is development and human resources,” she said.

READ: Indonesia rights body condemns planned raids targeting LGBT community after UK rape case

To the president, laws are just seen as means to facilitate development, infrastructure and investments, she opined, adding that there has been no genuine effort to beef up overall rule of law in the Indonesian system.

The omnibus laws come just as investment opportunities were limited in Jokowi’s first term due to alleged red tape. Economic growth has also been stagnant at around 5 per cent in the last few years.

There are four omnibus laws being proposed at the moment from creating jobs, reforming the tax system, relocating the capital and revamping the pharmaceutical sector which the government wants to ratify as soon as possible.

Ms Susanti said that hasty ratification of the omnibus laws is "dangerous", as these laws are connected to other policies.

"If they are ratified in a rush, there will be many consequences in the implementation and there may be many overlapping regulations and rule of laws violated,” Ms Susanti told CNA. 

READ: Indonesian President Jokowi suggests Sandiaga may be his successor in 2024

Political economist Mr Edbert Gani also said that the government should be careful with the omnibus laws.

“We have never had an omnibus law before. So no one can know, whether this would be effective or not,” he said.

PUBLIC EXPECTS MORE ON SECURITY FRONT

In the past three months, the government had to manage issues related to security and sovereignty, with Chinese vessels fishing in the archipelago’s exclusive economic zone in the Natuna waters, as well as clashes in its easternmost region Papua.

Natuna Islands Jokowi
This handout picture taken and released on Jan 8, 2020 by the Presidential Palace shows Indonesia's President Joko Widodo during his visit to a military base in the Natuna islands, which border the South China Sea. (Photo: AFP/Presidential Palace)

“This (security) is a problem which will always be challenging to every president. Since Indonesia has many political interests, it will always face sovereignty issues,” Mr Wijaya said.

READ: Chinese vessels leaving Natuna after days of stand-off with Indonesia

The president has appointed former presidential candidate rival and army general Mr Prabowo Subianto as the defence minister, but the latter's stance on several issues are not that clear.

“We should be able to rely on our current defence minister because his level (of competency) is presidential candidacy who we hope can do more than a defence minister, not to mention his bravery to defend sovereignty.

"But if we observe, it tends not to have met the high expectations from the society when people look at Prabowo,” Mr Wijaya claimed.

Other than seeking a bigger defence budget, Mr Subianto has yet to make a major announcement with respect to his own vision for Indonesia’s defence policy. Some had also criticised him for not taking a sufficiently tough stance against China during the Natuna stand off.

Prabowo Subianto
Retired general Prabowo Subianto has taken up the role of Indonesia's defence minister on October 23, 2019, after previously running for presidency. (Photo: Kiki Siregar)

“I actually believe the one who meets this (expectation) and performs, for example when it comes to North Natuna, is Mdm Retno,” Mr Wijaya said, referring to the country’s foreign minister.

“Her diplomacy skills managed to cover the negative perceptions that say Indonesia is mushy,” he said.

Negativities aside, Mr Gani said there are certain things Jokowi and his current government has done well in the first 100 days.

Nadiem Makarim, founder of the Indonesian ride-hailing and online payment firm Gojek waves to journ
Nadiem Makarim, founder of the Indonesian ride-hailing and online payment firm Gojek waves to journalists as he arrives at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct 21, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Among those who have have been perceived favourably include former Gojek CEO and current Education Minister Nadiem Makarim.

He is seeking to abolish national exams  and putting in place an evaluative assessment to measure students’ numeracy and literacy levels at grade four, eight, and eleven.

On teachers’ day, Mr Makarim also sent out a note to all teachers saying that he identified with their struggles in balancing teaching duties and other administrative work. The simple act won him sympathy among both teachers and parents.

“He has taken a fresh approach to things and people have been given something new to talk about,” said Mr Gani.

Source: CNA/ks(aw)

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