Joko Skirts Tough Issues in Bid for Jakarta Governor

By webadmin on 04:52 pm Sep 14, 2012
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Pitan Daslani & Ronna Nirmala

With less than a week before the runoff Jakarta governor election, many Jakartans are still mystified by the man known to many as Jokowi. Solo mayor Joko Widodo, who has emerged from the background of Indonesia’s political landscape to challenge incumbent Fauzi Bowo, seldom reveals his deepest beliefs.

He declined to answer questions from the Jakarta Globe on a range of hot social issues such as his stance on big government and cutting bureaucratic red tape and whether he supports abortion and same-sex marriage. “These issues are too controversial,” he noted.

Those who know him well, however, say that Joko is a conservative Muslim who strongly opposes promiscuous sex, abortion and divorce. He does not drink liquor, is not a smoker and opposes drugs, though he acknowledged the use of those products was rampant in Jakarta.

With a background as an entrepreneur, Joko is likely to be pro-business, political observers say, but again he has yet to reveal his full intentions. He has focused his campaign on promises to help the poor and micro-businesses, but has said nothing about how he will create jobs and raise income levels for the residents of the capital.

Take the issue of Jakarta’s many shopping malls. While some of the rhetoric during the first round of campaigning denounced the high-end shopping centers in a bid to win over lower-income voters, Joko said there was room in the city for enterprises of all sized and that a symbiosis can be found.

“Some people think there are too many malls, but I like it that there are malls built around productive grassroots businesses. Look at Tanah Abang: It provides an outlet for productive community enterprises,” he said, referring to the mall in Central Jakarta.

“Malls can be good, but we don’t want to fuel one-way consumer tendencies. We want to concentrate on boosting community businesses, so the kinds of things we need are more showrooms, facilities and investment.”

Joko said he had grand designs for setting up a high-tech business incubator in the capital. “We need to develop a big technology park, something that can be Jakarta’s own Silicon Valley,” he said.

“We can take vocational school and university graduates and put them there to develop business embryos that can become new tech businesses. That’s something we must work on.”

Another issue he wanted to focus on was Jakarta’s branding. Most major capitals around the world are easily recognizable as hubs of finance, fashion, tourism and so on, Joko pointed out.

But how does Jakarta come across?

Budi Purnomo Karjodihardjo, who has for some time worked with Joko, said that the Solo mayor is an action- and result-oriented leader.

He is “a manager who is quite good at delegating authority and leading by showing examples rather than giving instructions. That is how he teaches his subordinates to become leaders in their respective positions,” Budi noted.

So, what would he do if elected governor of Jakarta?

Budi said that Joko is impatient with the slow progress in solving the problems of the capital city, such as unhealthy living environment, poverty, floods, traffic jams and crime.

Joko believed the Rp 144 trillion ($15 billion) in the city government’s annual budget was “more than enough to finance activities for solving some of those problems,” Budi quoted him as saying.

But exactly how remained unanswered. One of the biggest challenges is to solve the city’s chronic traffic woes.

Current governor Fauzi has already promised to get the much-awaited mass rapid transport system operating by 2015. Work on renovating the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport has already started, and he has promised to build a new airport on Jakarta Bay. Currently, two elevated highways are under construction and will be completed by the middle of 2013.

Joko has achieved some success in Solo with a public transit system but his challenge in Jakarta will be many times greater. “It’s like this: We want to move people, not cars,” he said.

“Jakarta is already congested, so why should we give motorists more concessions and facilities? Providing large parking areas encourages people to drive.

“We should be doing the opposite, reducing the number of parking areas. We should be developing a comfortable public transportation system, not pouring resources into concessions for motorists.”

His take on the city bureaucracy is just as radical. “The bureaucracy must be rebuilt anew. The system to issue KTPs [identification cards] needs to be overhauled, along with the whole public services system,” Joko said.

He said, however, that he would still retain many of Fauzi’s administration policies, though he did not elaborate.

Joko and Fauzi will face each other in a debate tonight, and on election day next Thursday.