Joko Widodo, the president who wanted to see Indonesia big

Joko Widodo the president who wanted to see Indonesia big

With a popularity rating which fluctuates according to sources between 75 and 80%, to make Western leaders green with envy, the outgoing Indonesian president Joko Widodo has managed in ten years to make his country an economic giant, not only regional. but also global. He is not running in the February 14 presidential election due to constitutional term limits.

From our special correspondent in Jakarta,

Let’s imagine for a moment Emmanuel Macron who, to address the French, would wear, for example, a kabig, the traditional Breton costume. This image alone would undoubtedly make you smile, if not sarcasm. When the Indonesian president Joko Widodo delivered his last state of the nation speech last August, he arrived dressed in the traditional dress of the Tanimbar archipelago, in the Moluccas province, located some 2,600 km from the capital, Jakarta, located on the island of Java. Jokowi, as both his voters and his opponents call him, preferred to wear ethnic clothing (incidentally from a predominantly Christian province) rather than a Western costume, to better highlight Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage.

Continuing the message that he has continually hammered home since coming to power in 2014: Indonesians can and must have confidence in themselves so that the nation can progress. He even gave a name to this slogan, the “mental revolution”, the spearhead of an immense country geographically speaking and which dares to think big at all levels of its development.

And at the end of his two consecutive five-year mandates, it is clear that theIndonesia saw the big picture. As a result, in 2024, the country will become the fifth largest economy in the world, replacing the United Kingdom, according to projections from the World Bank and the IMF. Eight years ago, Indonesia was not even in the top thirty of this ranking. The essential reason for this sudden acceleration is the growth of the middle class, which was still almost non-existent around fifteen years ago in the Indonesian archipelago, long dominated by a poor class representing three-quarters of its inhabitants, facing a class of super rich, very minority but owning all the economic cogs of the country.

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Devoid of real transport infrastructure ten years ago, the sprawling capital Jakarta can now boast electric trams and also a metro, for the moment with a single line that crosses the entire city. But this is considerable progress in a booming country where the best way to get around has long been the motorcycle taxi, called here ojek. The icing on the Indonesian cake is that the nation is now the only one in Southeast Asia to offer a TGV connection, connecting Jakarta to Bandung in 45 minutes, where previously it took 3 or 4 hours by car. Tangible progress that Indonesia is the only country in the region that can boast of.

The Jokowi presidency is therefore characterized by the emphasis placed on the development of infrastructure, social protection programs and as a corollary economic growth, which remained stable at 5% except in 2020, due to the “Covidian” contraction. The project to relocate the capital to the province of Kalimantan (better known to Westerners as Borneo), a thousand kilometers north of the island of Java, is also part of this development perspective. all hair. Jakarta is therefore not alone in benefiting from the economic boom, as evidenced by the numerous new highways and railway lines which crisscross the country from Aceh in the north of the island of Sumatra to Papua in the east.

Joko Widodo is convinced, Indonesia will be on the verge of the hundredth anniversary of its independence obtained in 1945, one of the largest economies in the world. He even took the risk of recording it very clearly in his roadmap soberly called “Golden Indonesia”. An ambition that is not at all disproportionate if we are to believe the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which predicts that Indonesia’s gross domestic product will reach nearly $9,000 billion by 2045. Today Today with a population of 270 million inhabitants, Indonesia is impatiently awaiting its demographic bonus which should around 2040 bring the country above the 300 million inhabitants mark. As a direct consequence, 65% of the population will be of working age, announces the OECD.

Social left hand and liberal right hand

On the religious level, President Jokowi achieved the feat of reversing the ascendant dynamic of the Islamist parties, not by rejecting them but by including them in his cabinet. “ The third pillar of Indonesian ideology, Pancasila, emphasizes unity in diversity » he declared last year in a television interview. Or how to unite to better rule, reversing the old habit of dividing to better establish your power.

Governor of Jakarta before being elected president, Jokowi likes to present himself as a man who does not belong to the establishment. Coming from the PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle), the party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the first Indonesian president Sukarno, Jokowi has always put the poor at the center of his priorities. Two years after his first election, he did the unthinkable by allocating land to the most needy and distributing daily food rations in villages where there is endemic poverty. He also set up a national health insurance plan that was almost non-existent before him. Equipped with their “Kartu Indonesia Sehat”, equivalent to the French Vitale card, Indonesians have access to health care that the most deprived could not even dream of before. In terms of education too, progress is remarkable, with the “Kartu Indonesia Pintar”, literally the map of intelligent Indonesia, the idea of ​​universal education has gained ground.

Joko Widodo, on the day of his enthronement, October 20, 2014.

But in this social and humanist impulse, Jokowi has not forgotten his distinctly capitalist inclination. It was his immense popularity that allowed him to get Indonesians to accept a labor law reform allowing companies to lay off employees without difficulty in the event of a decline in turnover. With a social left hand and a liberal right hand, he can somehow redistribute wealth to the poor and encourage international investment in his country.

Accused of leaving Indonesia more corrupt

Ahead of the first round of the presidential election on February 14, 81% of Indonesians say they are satisfied with its governance, according to a study by the Indonesian branch of the Ipsos institute. With such popularity, it is difficult to imagine that its detractors will find sufficient resonance to be heard. He was accused of having awarded the position of national police chief to Budi Gunawan, a man suspected of criminal acts by the KPK, the national commission for the eradication of corruption. Gunawan’s membership in the same party as Jokowi, the PDI-P, has caused more than just chatter in the archipelago. Under joint pressure from the police and the KPK, Jokowi reversed his decision a year later, appointing Gunawan as head of “Badan Intelijen Negar”, the national intelligence agency, a sort of equivalent of the French DGSI .

In terms of human rights, the NGO Human Rights Watch does not congratulate the outgoing president in its 2024 World Report, criticizing him for not having produced “ no real effort to combat discrimination and abuse against marginalized groups. » Still according to the New York-based NGO, the new Penal Code adopted in December 2022 “violates the rights of religious minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by violating the rights to freedom of expression and association. Regarding women’s rights, feminist associations criticize the outgoing president for not having done enough. “ Teverything still remains on the surface. When we expected that so much could actually be done » laments Wita Krisanti, executive director in Jakarta of the Indonesian Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment.

Jokowi was also criticized when Indonesia chaired the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for failing to persuade Myanmar’s military junta to implement the provisions of the Five-Five Consensus. points agreed in Jakarta in April 2021 after the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar. However, it was during the mandate of Joko Widodo that Indonesia recognized the massacres of the ruthless repression carried out against members of the Indonesian Communist Party between 1965 and 1966, as well as other crimes committed over half a century.

But the biggest blow to Jokowi’s governance is accusing him of leaving behind an Indonesia more corrupt than when he was first elected in 2014. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index (IPC) published each year by the NGO Transparency International, the country went from 96e rank of the “cleanest” countries at 110e out of 180 countries studied. In 2014, when he took office, Indonesia ranked 107th out of 175 countries. It should be noted, however, that the Jokowi administration itself is not judged to be corrupt.

Joko Widodo has nevertheless managed to propel his country into an impressive development orbit, which is certainly one of the most complex to govern in the world, extending over a little more than 5,000 kilometers from west to east, across a string of nearly 18,000 islands. “ The outgoing president has not only governed competently, he has also set new standards of governance that should be the envy of other major democracies » notes Kishore Mahbubani, researcher at the Asian Research Institute of the National University of Singapore. Despite a global economic slowdown, President Jokowi has sought to promote economic growth through his infrastructure policy, while controlling inflation, and by very favorably stimulating the digital economy, while implementing a policy social action never before seen in Indonesia, today one of the only true democracies in Southeast Asia.

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