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Indonesia's vice-president hopefuls woo voters with plans to boost economy

By LEONARDUS JEGHO in Jakarta | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-26 09:10

A volunteer arranges ballot boxes for next year's general election at a sports hall in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday.

Indonesia's vice-president hopefuls woo voters with plans to boost economy

Following the first televised debate of three Indonesian presidential candidates on Dec 12, their running mates on Friday took the stage for their debate and promised the nation their commitment to boost Indonesia's economy and the welfare of its people.

Friday's was the second of the five television debates scheduled for presidential and vice-presidential candidates before voters around the country head to polling stations to cast their ballots on Feb 14 next year. President Joko Widodo will end his two five-year term in November next year.

Focusing on the economy, Friday's debate was part of the 75-day campaign period that began on Nov 28 and that has seen contestants attending campaign rallies at different places in the largest archipelagic country in the world.

During the two-hour exchange that took place at the Jakarta Convention Center, the three vice-presidential candidates, namely Muhaimin Iskandar, Gibran Rakabuming Raka and Mahfud MD, spelled out their economic vision, mission and programs, which analysts viewed as generally lacking breakthrough methods and clear funding to turn their plans into reality.

Their debate covered topics related to the economy, finance, taxes, investment, trade, the state budget and regional budgets, and infrastructure.

Iskandar is former minister of manpower and former parliament member. He has partnered with former Jakarta governor and former minister of education Anies Baswedan for the upcoming election.

Raka is mayor of Surakarta and is Widodo's eldest son, who runs with Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto. The minister, a former army general, narrowly lost to Widodo in the last two presidential elections.

Possible runoff election

The Subianto-Raka pair has seen its lead widen and comes first in the latest surveys. However, it is widely held that there will be a runoff election.

Mahfud currently serves as coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs. He runs with former governor of Central Java Ganjar Pranowo.

David So, director at a Jakarta-based group of electrical equipment companies, said Friday's debate was quite interesting, but the two-hour debate was not enough for those vice-presidential candidates to explain their working programs.

"Unfortunately, they did not discuss the current global economic situation. People are now worried about a global economic recession that will surely impact Indonesia in the coming years," David So told China Daily.

He is especially worried about the program designed by Raka's camp to raise tax ratio and tax revenue by establishing a tax revenue agency to be directly commanded by the president.

The Subianto-Raka partner is the only pair that loudly declared it would continue implementing the Widodo administration's programs, including ambitious infrastructure projects such as the popularly known "hilirisasi", or the downstream of nickel and other highly salable minerals, and the building of new state capital city in East Kalimantan.

Raising the number of registered taxpayers and tax revenue will only increase the burdens of existing registered taxpayers, especially entrepreneurs who have paid taxes with discipline, David So said.

Sawidji Widoatmodjo, dean of the School of Economics at Tarumanagara University in Jakarta, said the three candidates mostly focused on short-term issues, not giving attention to the current economic environment that would affect Indonesia's economy.

He mentioned a series of short-term programs aired on Friday by the three contestants like the provision of free school lunches and milk that aims to lower the country's stunting rate.

"As a matter of fact, their programs are conceptual only. The funding for those programs is not yet clear and so they will rely on the state budget instead," Widoatmodjo said.

He warned the presidential and vice-presidential candidates about rising geopolitical heat in the coming years.

The writer is a freelancer for China Daily.

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