Jokowi’s Broken Political Promises: Leave Indonesia in Limbo

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(illustration: IO/Agung)

IO, Jakarta – The election of Joko Widodo as the 7th President of RI in 2014 generated euphoria. The people placed a lot of expectations on his shoulders, with the hope that our people and nation will rise to a better condition under his leadership. Unfortunately, such expectations fell short when reality took place. It has been 4 years since he became the Number One Citizen of the country, since he made so many promises – promises that he mostly failed to deliver.

The media recorded 66 promises that Jokowi made, planning to implement them within the 5 years of his leadership. However, many of these promises were only verbalized dreams, with no ability to realize them. We shall emphasize only the Top 10 disappointments: creating food independence, 10 million job opportunities, 7% economic growth, shifting from petroleum fuel to gas within 3 years, cutting prices of basic necessities, abstaining from taking on foreign debt, halting meat imports, buying back Indosat, expanding Pertamina (the State energy company) to grow bigger than Petronas, and establishing 50,000 Community Health Centers (Pusat Kesehatan Masyarakat – “Puskesmas”).

By seeing Indonesia’s current condition, it is no surprise that the #2019GantiPresiden movement has spread out through the region. Behind it all, the question remains: “Is Jokowi still worthy enough to be Indonesia’s leader?”

The People Disillusioned
Siti Zuhro, Senior Researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, opined that Jokowi’s profile during his first presidential candidacy in the 2014 Presidential Elections will be very different from what he projects in the 2019 Presidential Elections. In 2014, Jokowi did not have the moral responsibility to make any promises to the people, because he had never held any position at a national level. He was only the Governor of DKI Jakarta at that time. However, the 2019 Presidential Elections will be vastly different, as Jokowi has become President on the basis of amazing promises made during his campaign – and this must be reckoned with.

“Perhaps we never had a president sworn in so jubilantly, with so much of the people’s expectation riding on him, than was apparent with Jokowi in 2014. When people’s expectations are set sky-high and then they are disillusioned, people will question Jokowi when he comes up for re-election, including the hitherto-unrealized promises that he made during his campaign. We are appraising the spirit of the people nearing 2019 Elections. Do most people prefer to have him again as President for a second term, or would they prefer to change presidents? If our calculation shows a preference for a change of president, this signifies a great dissatisfaction with Jokowi. This is what we need to consider in a judicial manner, with balance and objectivity, so there will be no more image-making politics that mislead the people and are only tantamount to public lies,” Siti Zuhro said.

“I think that logically public satisfaction should exert a positive impact on public support, such as the case of Risma (Tri Rismaharini) during the 2015 Regional Elections in Surabaya, when extreme satisfaction with her performance earned her an 82% share of the vote,” Siti Zuhro said. She further pointed out that as the incumbent, Jokowi is already popular. He already has the access and facilities to improve his electability. However, when survey agencies state that public satisfaction with the incumbent is about 80%, but his electability does not reach 40%, we need to ask: “What is going on?”

She then said that Jokowi will base his repeat candidacy on the excuse that the 9 programs in his Nawacita (“Nine Aspirations”) Agenda have not been completely realized, and they cannot possibly be completed within a mere 5 years. Therefore, he will be making promises again. “However, I think that Indonesia needs a leader with strong leadership, measurable policies, and ability to generate legal certainty. During Jokowi’s leadership, there is a huge mismatch between the high expectations pinned upon him and the reality achieved, except perhaps the desire to build up infra­structure. Yet even this is completed using various complex means, such as multiple foreign debts. Indonesia should be developed in a temperate manner – we don’t want to have too much development on one side, and big problems on the other,” Siti Zuhro explained.

A Political Observer from Al-Azhar University Jakarta, Ujang Komarudin, considers that he could only give a “60” for President Jokowi’s performance during his leadership of Indonesia, especially in view of our worrisome economic condition. Ujang also criticizes Jokowi’s inconsistency as a leader. “Jokowi as leader said that ministers cannot hold double positions. The fact is, Airlangga Hartarto holds a double position. This is going to earn him a bad view in the people’s eyes, because leaders are viewed from their words and actions,” he said.

Ujang Komarudin further said that a lot of expectations were pinned on Jokowi, leading to his election. However, as time goes by, most of the people have become disappointed with his policies. “40% of the people are disappointed. The Government raised Basic Electricity Tariffs (Tarif Dasar Listrik – “TDL”) quite high, but refused to admit it. Ditto with the raise of petroleum fuel prices and those of basic necessities, which is enough to make the people scream in rage,” he said.

Promises, Promises, Promises
Didik J. Rachbini, Economic Observer, thinks that Jokowi only made promises heedlessly, and now he is having trouble trying to realize them. To state the most basic one, the promise of establishing food independence has never been realized. “Independence in rice yields have not been achieved at all. The Minister of Agriculture said that we are independent and we don’t need rice imports, yet rice prices continue to rice. This means that rice production is horribly insufficient. Even just halfway through this year, we have imported 1 million tons of rice – and if rice production continues as it is, we can predict that rice imports will double by the end of the year,” he said.

Aspirations for 7% economic growth are still a long way from being realized. The current growth rate is only 5% because potential economic growth deriving from the public’s consumption rate is already 4.9%. That means that growth occurs without any Government input whatsoever. The promise to create 10 million jobs is but a pipe dream with a growth rate of only 5% a year. The promise to cut debt, including foreign obligations, has been a total failure. Within the past 2 years, Government debts doubled. “Ditto with the promise to suppress the prices of basic necessities – just look at our current condition. And the promise to halt meat imports? In fact, we now import more than ever!” Didik said.

Ujang Komarudin said that these many unrealized campaign promises, such as the difficulty of getting jobs instead of the promised 10 million new jobs, and the continued rise of the prices of basic necessities instead of a promised reduction, serve as a window of opportunity for political opponents to attack Jokowi – who should spend the remaining 8 months of his tenure at least attempting to manifest his promises. A leader’s job is to nurture the welfare of the people. When they are not in an optimal condition, and poverty spreads, that means that there is something wrong with the State’s management. Ujang Komarudin believes that Jokowi is not strict enough in pushing his subordinates to realize his programs. “This is because governance is insufficient – party interests still dominate,” he said.

Khudori, an Agricultural Observer from the Association of Indonesian Economics and Politics, criticizes Jokowi’s policies in relation to food independence. He took the example of rice: 2017 data shows that a production rate of 81 million tons of dried grain harvest should have been convertible to about 45 million tons of rice. The people consume 30 million tons a year, so there should have been a surplus of 15 million tons. Statistics Indonesia calculated that existing 2005-2015 data shows that we have a rice surplus of 100 million tons.

“If that is true, our farmers don’t need to plant rice for 3 years and we will not have any insufficiency. Yet the facts are otherwise. This is why the validity of our Government’s food data, especially rice data, is hard to believe. Even though the data says we are enjoying a surplus, imports are still made to maintain rice stocks and as a measure to ensure stability. Imports are in fact allowed to help us fortify our stock, but we should not let imports go free into our market as they defeat the products of our own farmers,” he said.

This year’s target for the Indonesian Logistics Agency (Badan Urusan Logistik – “Bulog”) is to absorb 2.7 million tons of domestic rice production, while the amount absorbed until July 2018 is far below that. It will be impossible for Bulog to achieve this target by the end of the year, especially since now we are in the musim gadu (dry interim season), when rice production will not be as high as during the great harvest season in May.

Khudori regrets the fact that the Government only focuses on rice, corn and soybeans, while local foods such as sorghum, sago, cassava, etc. are neglected. A more critical issue is that farmlands never expand. The current area of land in Indonesia dedicated to farming is the same as in previous years: only 8 million hectares. Any effort to create new farmlands cannot compete with the speed of conversion from farmlands to non-farmlands. The Government should increase the use of lands such as sub-optimal lands. In terms of production, these may not be as good as prime lands, but they will still produce something quite good if only the Government attempts to make it worthwhile, by including technological research. It has always focused its agricultural research on quickly disappearing prime lands and ignoring the much more available sub-optimal lands. Breakthroughs such as those in the 60’s and 70’s should be made, because there was an agricultural revolution at the time, when the Government created agribusiness packages. These were able to increase productivity significantly.

Khudori said that the promise of suppressing the prices of basic necessities is expressed in the Regulation of the Minister of Trade (Peraturan Menteri Perdagangan – “Permendag”) Number 58, Year 2018 concerning Purchase Reference Prices at Producer Level and Sale Prices at Consumer Levels. The Government also specifically regulates the Maximum Retail Price (Harga Eceran Tertinggi – “HET”) for rice in this Regulation.

“From the time of its enactment until now, try and check at any food price information center – the prices of all commodities are still above reference prices. The Permendag is ineffective. In fact, reference prices are meant to be a warning for the Government to do something to lower prices. However, that’s not the fact nowadays. For example, the Government unilaterally sets both sugar reference prices and the amount of sugar imported. For this past 3 years, our sugarcane farmers have been suffering because sugar prices have been extremely low. The Government sets sugar HET at Rp 12,500.00/kg, but sugarcane farmers are overdrawn because their actual production cost is Rp 10,500.00/kg, and Bulog is instructed to buy sugar from farmers at Rp 9,700.00/kg. This is outrageous,” he said bitterly.

Rice HET is also under a lot of criticism, particularly since it does not allow much leeway for entrepreneurs to provide added value. “With lowest unhusked rice price being Rp 4,500/kg, would rice mills make any profit by milling medium-quality rice? With HET at producer level at Rp 9,500.00/kg, not to mention milling time and labor and energy costs, I think they would not! This is why mills prefer not to mill a lot of medium-quality rice, but they prefer to produce premium rice instead – even though we really must ask about the quality of this so-called “premium” rice from small mills, because small-scale technology is insufficient for producing premium rice,” Khudori explained.

Meat prices remain the same: meat imports remain huge year after year. The Government obliges beef livestock companies to import breeding cows at a ratio of 1:5 with butchered cows, but this does not really resolve meat import issues. “The beef livestock companies find this to be nonsense. None of the efforts to reduce meat imports can be called “successful” until now. Two years ago, when the Government was faced with high beef prices, it attempted to substitute beef with buffalo meat from India. The price can be reduced to Rp 80,000.00/kg at modern markets, but buffalo meat consumers are different from beef consumers,” Khudori said.

Abra Talattov, Indef Researcher, considers that the economic achievements of Jokowi’s Government leave a lot to be desired. For example, in terms of food independence, imports of strategic foods such as rice remains high. Agricultural governance remains to be optimized. In fact, agricultural exchange value has gone downhill.

In terms of economic growth, reaching an economic growth level of 7% is very difficult. Our growth rate cannot increase properly. Other than because of external events, this is also caused by domestic factors, especially contradictory Government policies. Among these contradictions is the fact that aggressive development of infrastructure is not balanced with increased domestic economic capacity. Developing infrastructure mostly uses imported raw materials, which results in a trade balance deficit and the weakening of the Rupiah.

Government debts have also increased significantly within the past 3 years. This is inseparable from the Government’s ambition to massively develop infrastructure. The Government then converts these debt liabilities into State-owned Enterprises, which then generates foreign loans. Furthermore, converting petroleum fuel to gas is also difficult to realize, especially in terms of creating basic supply infrastructures for gas and procuring and selling cars that can run on gas instead of petroleum-based fuels.

“The promise to buy back Indosat also still has a long way to go. Forget about spending money to buy Indosat back: the Government is actually having trouble maintaining the business performance of strategic State-owned Enterprises such as Pertamina and PLN (the National Electric Company). The promise of creating 10 million new job opportunities is a difficult one to fulfill. According to historical data, 1% economic growth should be able to absorb 600,000 workers. Yet the fact is, the quality of our economic growth continues to decrease. In the end, this means that workers are predominantly working in the informal sector, such as online ojek (motorcycle taxi). Furthermore, the number of foreign workers has risen dramatically, as the development of infrastructure requires many expert foreign workers,” Abra Talattov explained.

Our Boneless Government
Didik J. Rachbini considers that the greatest weakness of Jokowi’s Government is that its Economic Team has weak social capital as well as weak coordination. They even conflict greatly with each other. It is no wonder that they fail to implement his economic policies.

Like Didik J. Rachbini, Ujang Komarudin considers that Indonesia’s current economic condition is the Government’s weakest point. “How will we revitalize the economy and stabilize our exchange value against the Dollar? And why is our economy vulnerable? An unfavorable economic condition will directly affect Jokowi’s leadership – it will determine whether or not he will be re-elected,” he said.

Siti Zuhro is not blind to the great dissatisfaction felt by people towards Jokowi – especially relating to law enforcement and the right to hold an opinion, which was threatened by the presence of conspiracies. Another part of the dissatisfaction is related to social harmony. Our social harmony or cohesiveness is threatened, because communities, friends, even family members go against each other. This causes us to be vulnerable to conflicts, which means that we the people are anxious about legal certainty. The comfort that we feel, that we really are Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, united in our diversity – that our differences are accepted and embraced – is our strength, yet it is now insecure.

A leader should be visionary. As the holder of the highest power in the Government that runs the presidential system, his power is to execute programs. Siti Zuhro believes that the Government’s biggest weakness is that it is not a transforming and fair leadership, unlike the fifth tenet of Pancasila (“Social justice for all Indonesian citizens”) that our leader must work hard to achieve and maintain.

“Right now, I think Jokowi has leadership issues. Indonesia’s leader must have strong leadership, because s/he must serve as a symbol of unification of our archipelago – all the way from Sabang to Merauke. Jokowi should be the President for all Indonesians: there is no need for him to keep volunteers. In Indonesia, what we need are volunteers that build up the system, not volunteers that support only their own groups. Our country needs to establish a solid system, and under the current situation with Indonesian people, we should all be volunteers for our State and nation,” she said.

Khudori thinks that the final year of Jokowi’s Government will be fully-dedicated just for political gain. The populist policies Jokowi takes are more geared towards political considerations, and most of these policies become a burden on the State Budget. For example, prices for electricity and gasoline fuel have not been raised. Gasoline and diesel fuels, which should have disappeared from Java, Madura, and Bali, are being reinstituted.

Furthermore, the production and distribution of our basic necessities have been in the clutches of heartless money lenders and middlemen. They will not allow any effort to reduce the content of their rice bowls without a fight, and that is what is happening nowadays. Nearly all strategic food imports generate high profits – that is why they are called “strategic”. For example, the price for refined sugar for industry is Rp 8,000.00/kg, but the Government sets the price for refined sugar for consumption use at Rp 12,500.00/kg. That’s a profit of more than Rp 4,000.00 or 50% per kg!

The Government only sets reference prices, but neglects to provide stabilizing instruments nowadays. Therefore, when market prices do not match reference prices, the Government cannot do anything about it. When market prices exceed ceiling prices and harm consumers’ buying power, the Government should do something to keep inflation down, such as intervening in the market. Stocks are important as a means for intervention when the market fails. Other than price limits and inventory reserves, a sufficient budget is necessary because stock-related funding is far from being small. There is nothing like that now: The Government sets the price of sugar at Rp 12,500.00/kg, and just expects merchants to obey without giving them a hand with maintaining price ranges.

“The Government’s biggest duty,” said Abra Talattov, “as well as its biggest weakness, is how can it create quality economic growth. The indicators of economic growth are increased employment, less poverty, and a smaller economic gap in society. The Government said that the economic gap level has decreased to below 10%, but 0.89 is still a far cry from the 0.36 gap rate promised by Nawacita.

According to Abra Talattov, Government policies seek to soothe the people by being populist, but at the cost of the financial health of State-owned Enterprise such as PLN and Pertamina. “The Govern­ment’s populist policies sacrifice the financial health of State-owned Enterprises, including financing of State-owned utilities. If these Enterprises are forced to please the people temporarily, it will end up sacrificing state Enterprises’ health in the long term. If they suffer from long-term financial issues, it is the people who must pay for it in the end. The risks include the sale of State-owned Enterprise assets, which is shown from the plan made by the Minister of State-owned Enterprises to allow Pertamina to share down petroleum and natural gas blocks. This means that the Government has cracked open the option to swap strategic assets owned by State-owned Enterprises. There is also a plan to sell toll roads owned by State-owned Enterprises to private parties, under the excuse that this will allow the Government to have enough money to build more toll roads,” he said. “President Jokowi has grand objectives, but he does not see reality. He really should be less bombastic and be more realistic.”

#2019GantiPresiden
As we enter 2018, the waves of the #2019GantiPresiden (“#ChangePresidents2019”) movement spreads even wider. According to Ujang Komarudin, Jokowi’s performance in leading the country gives his political opponents a second wind. The movement becomes so popular and massive, that it has even been banned in several regions. “This is an ordinary movement, but it also has great potential to topple Pak Jokowi – especially in view of our current economic condition,” he said.

This sort movement would be ineffective if the Government could somehow display good performance. However, the facts in the field says differently: people are struggling with their lives. “The people think that the Government cannot maintain the country properly, so this movement gets bigger. The people only care about their own and their family’s stomachs – if they and their family get hungry, the people will definitely want to change (President), even though they might have been cheering for him very much before,” Ujang Komarudin said.

Furthermore, survey results say that President Jokowi’s maximum electability is 60%. “That is thin ice for the incumbent, because it’s probably exaggerated. No incumbent cannot be exaggerated or toppled, and it all depends on their performance today. In politics, anything is possible. Anything at all. As long as Jokowi’s Government does not work properly, change of leadership is inevitable, but if they can do a good job, they will be kept in office,” he said.

Aspiration from below for a change of Presidents is a rarity. Siti Zuhro indicates that when the “change president” movement is welcomed and expanded, it shows that the people want to make sure that their needs are heard, and that they are taking steps in order to determine who their future leader may be. “The people are voters and givers of political rights not just on Election Day, but they determine for themselves who is worthy to be their leader far before that. There was nothing like this back in 2014,” she said.

The “2019 change president” campaign is a succession slogan, and it has become viral – so much so that Jokowi even responded. This slogan is perhaps a sting for the incumbent and his supporter. The words “change presidents” actually means “we will elect somebody new during the Elections”, yet it is perceived as such threat that people who cry this out most vocally, such as Neno Warisman, get threatened and intimidated.

“Elections are actually a consolidation of democracy, so it is a higher class. We must note that the 2019 Elections are our fifth national ones. We don’t want to take 2-3 steps ahead only to fall back into reverse of 4 steps. Now that is flawed democracy,” Siti Zuhro said. “I suggest that we give democracy, which we are exercising through our fifth direct elections, a strong law enforcement basis to prevent distorted behavior, violations of the law, deviations, or a free-for-all, whether in terms of words or actions.” (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati, Syahrul)