The Vice Presidential face-off: SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

Independent Observer

IO, Jakarta – Vice-Presidential Candidate Number 01 K.H. Ma’ruf Amin and Vice-Presidential Candidate Number 02 Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno faced off to pit their ideas and programs against one another in the Third 2019 Presidential Candidate Debate. The themes for the debate were education, health, employment, society and culture. Both Vice-Presidential Candidates delivered interesting statements in the debate held on 17 March 2019.

For example, in education, Vice-Presidential Candidate Sandiaga Uno states he plans to eliminate the notorious, much-criticized National Examination, pointing out that the nationwide test is one of the greatest expenditures in our national educational budget. If elected Vice President, Sandiaga vows to replace the National Examination with a test based on interests and talent. According to him, this would be more applicable to students. On the other hand, Vice-Presidential Candidate Ma’ruf Amin said he plans to establish a National Research Agency as a coordinating organ between ministries and institutions for managing research funds. According to him, the establishment of this agency is not to increase the number of institutions, but to improve the effectiveness of collaboration between the Government, academicians, business world, and industry.

In health programs, Ma’ruf highlighted the Government’s achievements in the National Health Security program through the Kartu Indonesia Sehat (“Healthy Indonesia Card”), focusing on the improvement of service quality and a more equalized distribution of medical workers and medical supplies. Ma’ruf further said the Healthy Indonesia Program improves preventive and promotive health efforts by making use of family approach.

Sandiaga criticized the management of the Health Social Security Agency (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial – “BPJS”). Other than discrimination in service towards BPJS, he mentioned other BPJS management issues such as medical workers not paid on time, bad hospital service, and limited availability of medicine. Sandiaga Uno promised that he and Presidential Candidate Prabowo Subianto will resolve the roots of the problems of Health BPJS and National Health Security within the first 200 days of election if they win the 2019 Elections.

In employment, Ma’ruf said that Jokowi’s side focuses on the revitalization vocational education, whether for vocational schools, polytechnics, or work training offices. Through the Pre-employment Card, they ask the business and industry world to help resolve the issue of the need for workers and the availability of job opportunities. On the other hand, Sandiaga prepares the Rumah Siap Kerja (“House of Work-ready”) to resolve the gap between workers’ competence and available job opportunities. According to him, the one-stop window program has the purpose of directing workers to become entrepreneurs.

Increased Unemployment
According to Mohammad Faisal, Executive Director of CORE Indonesia, each side has lit on the crucial employment issues that Indonesia has been facing, especially that of unemployment. Especially since within the next five years, efforts to reduce the rate of unemployment will become even more challenging. After all, the rapid development of information technology and digitalization flow accelerates transformation in the utilization of human resources in production processes and economic activities to make it more efficient, but at the same time, highly disruptive. In relation to the creation of job opportunities, CORE Indonesia thinks that several essential points need to be made:

First, the effort to create job opportunities, especially in formal sector, must be focused on whoever becomes the leader within the next five years. The level of open unemployment does show a tendency to decline within the past several years, to a level of 5.34% in 2018. However, most absorbed unemployed people enter the informal sector. In 2018, there were 70.49 million people or 57% of the total number of workers in Indonesia in the informal sector. This percentage increased significantly over the figures for 2014, wherein the ratio between informal and formal workers was 53%:47%. Throughout 2015-2018, the average growth of informal sector workers was 4%, while average growth of formal sector workers was only 1%.

According to Mohammad Faisal, unlike Ma’ruf’s claims in the debate, this condition actually shows that the Government has failed to create job opportunities in qualified formal sector, which finally encourages job seekers to look for job opportunities in the informal sector, even though work in the sector has a number of serious flaws: pay level, income stability, work protection, old-age security, and contribution to State income through taxes. The growth of job opportunities in the informal sector is mostly encouraged by rapid development of information technology and digitalization flow, which creates various business opportunities through e-trading or online transportation services.

The figures are even worse when compared to other ASEAN countries. Even though it has decreased, the decline of open unemployment levels in Indonesia so far is relatively slow. When Indonesia’s open employment rate reached 5.7% in 2017, neighboring countries Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam have a lower open unemployment level at 3.4%, 2.0%, and 1.2%, respectively.

Second, limited job opportunities in formal sector constitute one of the main causes of youth unemployment within the past five years, especially for those with middle to upper educational levels. The number of open unemployment among High School and Vocational School graduates in 2018 is 1.93 million people and 1.73 million people, which is the biggest contribution (52%) towards total unemployment in Indonesia at 7 million. While the number of lower educated unemployed people (Elementary School and Middle School graduates) has decreased within the past five years, the number of unemployed people with higher education, especially Vocational School and college and university graduates, actually increased. Throughout 2014-2018, the number of unemployed Vocational School graduates rose from 1.34 million to 1.73 million people, while unemployed college and university graduates increased from 495,000 to 730,000 within the same period.

The mismatch between the quality of workers supplied by educational institutions and existing industries (link and match) is one of the causes of this condition. The Government has so far created several vocational training and education programs. However, these programs have not effectively reduced the unemployment level of Vocational School graduates. Therefore, we need to evaluate and amend these programs in order to allow them to effectively absorb unemployment, especially from the ever-increasing number of Vocational School graduates.

Third, slow absorption of workers in manufacturing industries so far has become one of the primary factors that limit the creation of job opportunities in the formal sector. Even though the manufacturing industry is the fourth biggest sector that provides job opportunities after agriculture, trade and public service, most of the job opportunities generated in this sector are formal. Manufacturing is the sector that provides 11 million formal job opportunities, only second to the public service sector.

This sector has different characteristics from trade and agriculture, the two biggest job opportunity contributors, as well as from a number of service sectors that absorb the highest number of informal workers, such as construction and transportation. With a relatively slow growth rate (at about 4%) in comparison with the national economic growth rate (at about 5%), the manufacturing industry can only create relatively limited job opportunities in the formal sector. Furthermore, considering future challenges, i.e. the continued development of industry 4.0, digitalization, and automatization, efforts to create formal job opportunities will be highly related to the effort to create a supporting manufacturing industry climate, which not only prioritizes efficiency, but also optimizes the creation of job opportunities that match the structures and characteristics of workers in Indonesia.

Fourth, the creation of job opportunities in the manufacturing industry sector needs to be encouraged with harmonizing of worker salary policies and industrial competitiveness. In their vision and mission, the challengers promise to increase salary with a positive intent, i.e. to improve the welfare of workers. Salary is an issue that politicians frequently use to attract the people’s sympathy, especially among the working masses.

We need to ensure that the steps taken to improve worker welfare need to be maintained in order to prevent them from being counter-productive against the efforts to improve industrial competitiveness. This means that the various efforts made to worker welfare must be taken, so that there is no single-minded focus on improving salary levels. We really need Government policies that can maintain a supportive economic climate, to ensure that the people’s purchasing power is maintained, which will also sustain the real value of workers’ salaries. This is done (among others) by stabilizing food prices, providing affordable and good quality public transportation, and providing decent housing and educational opportunities, especially for middle-lower class citizens. In order to be able to maintain industrial competitiveness, the Government also needs to make breakthroughs to reduce production costs other than salary, such as for logistics, raw materials, and energy, so that the increases in salaries can be compensated for by lower non-salary costs.

In order to maintain industrial competitiveness, improvements in salaries must be accompanied by improvements in worker productivity. Therefore, efforts to improve worker productivity must become a primary priority. According to the data published by the International Labor Organization, the improvement of worker productivity in Indonesia is still relatively low if compared to that of other developing countries. Throughout 2014-2018, the growth of output per worker in Indonesia was only 14.6%, slower than Thailand, Vietnam, India, and China, which achieved 14.8%, 25%, 24.1% and 29.8%, respectively.

Fifth, simultaneously with the effort to accelerate the creation of formal job opportunities, the business climate in the informal sector must also be maintained, even though 56% of workers in Indonesia still work in the informal sector. Maintaining a business climate is not only important in the trade sector, but also in all other sectors, especially agriculture. The agriculture sector now remains the biggest job opportunity provider in Indonesia, contributing 28% to the total number of workers. Ironically, the number of citizens who work in this sector continues to decrease year after year, while its role as the provider of basic needs for the people (food) is simply vital.

In order to maintain the business climate of the agriculture sector, we need to provide large incentives to farmers in order to improve their welfare level, and to keep them motivated in producing and in improving their productivity. The Government needs to guarantee sale prices at farmer level so that it is higher than farmers’ production costs, whether by increasing purchase prices, improve agricultural infrastructure, and/or to managing food import policies better in order to prevent losses among domestic farmers.

Still in relation to the absorption of workers, Abra Talattov, Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (“INDEF”)’s Economic Observer, explains that Vice-Presidential Candidate 01 mostly defended the programs currently implemented by the Government. In terms of employment, it is true that unemployment has decreased from 7.2 million people to 7 million people, but the decrease is relatively small (only 240,000 people). This decrease of unemployment must also be checked more closely, because this statement was based on BPS data that states that there is an increase in the number of workers who work just 1-7 hours a week.

In order to resolve the issue, Vice-Presidential Candidate 02 has the idea of, among others, encouraging entrepreneurship by means of providing training centers like the Rumah Siap Kerja and OkeOce. This is a relevant concept, because the Government must stop thinking that only workers in the formal sector matter. Rather, there must be an emphasis of creating successful new entrepreneurs who will generate job opportunities and reduce unemployment. Yet this is not the end of the issue either: the OkeOce program must ensure that everything is smooth all the way to the marketing stage, for example by encouraging State-owned Enterprises to absorb the production of micro, small, and medium-sized businesses and accelerate market penetration, both domestic and export.

Sandiaga’s statement that 5 years is enough to resolve 2 million unemployment is conceptually possible. If unemployment only decreased 240,000 per year within 4 years, then it is feasible to decrease 2 million employment within 5 years, especially in the informal sector, by accelerating the development of micro, small, and medium-sized businesses.

Resolving BPJS Issues
Abra Talattov stated that the promise made by Vice-Presidential Candidate Number 02 to resolve BPJS issues within the first 200 days of his term shows a good spirit. However, it all depends on the budget politics that he plays with the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) or regional Governments.

The e-ID Card issue is based on the world trend that a lot of Government programs are integrated on a single Citizen’s Identity Card.

The issue of stunting is also related to food issues. Good food distribution is necessary in order to ensure both food affordability and quality, especially for groups that are vulnerable to stunting. “The Vice-Presidential Candidate Number 02’s idea about Sedekah Putih (“Milk Aid Program “) is also quite interesting,” Abra said.

On the other hand, in relation to stunting, BPJS Watch Observer Timboel Siregar thinks that the Vice-Presidential Candidates’ ideas to improve service for resolving stunting and BPJS deficit are still too general. They have not created new strategies for resolving the BPJS deficit and improving its services.

Vice-Presidential Candidate 01 said that BPJS Insurance in Indonesia is the biggest in the world, with 215 million insurance beneficiaries recorded in 2018 and 96.8 million of these beneficiaries are from the poor. Actually, in terms of both value of coverage and number of beneficiaries, China’s is the biggest in the world. Furthermore, Vice-Presidential Candidate 01 did not explore further the actual condition of these insured poor people – did everyone get their cards and can they access their benefits properly?

Vice-Presidential Candidate 02’s statement for resolving National Health Security issues in 200 is closely related to deficit issues. It is true that BPJS deficit is complex, because it involves a lot of stakeholders, such as the Government. The Government’s budgeting policy would determine whether fees are necessary or not, and whether fees should be increased or not. Such policies should be evaluated once every two years. Other issues include the far-from-optimal performance of BPJS directors and the high amount of unpaid fees. Law Number 24 of 2011 states that one of the functions of the Board of Directors is to ensure that fees are collected, and Rp 3 trillion is still unpaid. This is also something that must be confirmed. “Deficit can be covered with State Budget funds within fewer than 200 days, but systematic resolution of BPJS issues would require more than 200 days,” Timboel said.

Timboel further stated that Sandi’s intent to recalculate BPJS fees by calling in actuarial officers from abroad is a good indicator of his seriousness. Vice-Presidential Candidate 02 said that we need to improve our people’s health by promoting a healthy lifestyle that includes awareness of curative, preventive, and promotive action. This is possible by organizing health institutions to encourage the people to participate in health programs in order to prevent illness and reduce curative actions. This is also closely related to health budgets.

Sandi’s Advantage over Ma’ruf
University of Indonesia Economist Fithra Faisal Hastiadi said that this debate is different from the two previous ones. He believes that the third session was quite explorative, even though there are several issues that still need more detailed explanation. He specifically gives this assessment towards Vice-Presidential Candidate Sandiaga Uno, whom he considered to have won the Third Debate. After all, Sandiaga emphasizes more on explorative programs that are based on the realities in the field.

For example, he mentioned that 13% of family members in Indonesia do not earn (unpaid family workers), and that 60% of unemployed people have vocational school and polytechnical education. This data is in line with the statements made by the World Bank. Sandi said that if he gets elected in the 2019 Presidential Election, he will resolve this issue. He offered to take the OkeOce entrepreneurial movement that he has started in Jakarta to the national scale.

It is unlike Ma’ruf’s statement. In the debate, he only spoke normatively about the efforts that Jokowi has already made, such as the link and match program for connecting vocations with industries. According to Fithra, the link and match solution Ma’ruf offered is actually outdated, as there are no elaborations about its future implementation. “I should say that Sandiaga is at the advantage this time. He seems to know more about technicalities, he explained about more issues, and naturally he was more explorative. His solutions are based on actual case studies. On the other hand, Ma’ruf only described solutions that the Government are already implementing,” Fithra said. Another example, Fithra said, is Ma’ruf’s response concerning health security. Ma’ruf talked a lot about National Health Security (Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional – “JKN”), which he said is already good because the program already has 215 million beneficiaries. Of this number, the fees of 96.8 million beneficiaries are borne by the State. This is insufficient elaboration, because it is useless to have many people covered if the program has bad service.

Sandi is different, because according to Fithra he offered more concrete programs for improving health services by saying that health quality must become first priority. Sandiaga even dared to say that he would resolve Health BPJS deficit within the first 200 days of his rule, so that health and medical services can improve. According to Fithra, resolving the issue within the first 200 days is completely possible. “The current Health BPJS deficit according to Indonesian State Finance and Development Surveillance Committee (Badan Pengawasan Keuangan dan Pembangunan – “BPKP”) audit is Rp 10 trillion. This is actually just a fraction of the State’s Budget. Therefore, if we only want to resolve the deficit, 200 days is enough. But then we must think about how to arrange sustainable management for BPJS Health in the future,” he said.

Fithra stated that Ma’ruf could have done better at the debate when Sandi criticized Government policy about the presence of foreign workers. He parried Sandiaga’s attack using actual foreign worker data. Fithra said Sandiaga that also won against Ma’ruf in the debate relating to the type of cards used to distribute social aids to the people. Sandi plans to use Citizens’ e-ID Cards for this purpose. This is more advanced than issuing 3-4 different cards as Ma’ruf planned, as advanced countries provide social assistance using a Single Identification Number.

“I am glad that Ma’ruf, whom everybody so far perceives as a person who does not know the issues, can actually talk. However, I still feel that Sandiaga is more advanced. Technically, he proposed the right solution at the end of the debate, i.e. one single social aid card for all purposes. Ma’ruf, who should have been talking about technical issues, ended up making a “Friday Prayer sermon” by quoting too much and irrelevantly from the Holy Scripture,” he said.

Quality of Education
Indra Charismiadji, Educational Observer, concludes that the statements made by both Vice-Presidential Candidates concerning various issues in education, do not touch on the substance of the issues. This is because the biggest problem we face is the current crash in educational quality. This is the source of all our problems. “We talk about employment issues: there are many unemployed people, there are many foreign workers because our workers are simply uncompetitive. This is because the overall quality of our education is low. Educated people will take care of health issues, such as how to manage nutrition, manage diet. The source of all these problems is the low quality of our education, but neither Vice-Presidential Candidate raised this issue,” he said.

Ma’ruf Amin touched on educational programs by discussing the creation of Pre-employment Card and Indonesia Study Card for college students. “The idea for Pre-employment Card is good – if it is Presidential Candidate Pair Number 02 who discussed it. For Presidential Candidate 01 to discuss the Pre-employment Card, that is tantamount to admitting that all of Jokowi’s Government educational programs within the past five years have failed. We can infer this from the general unreadiness of our graduate HR to work,” Indra said.

Indra further stated that people could not get jobs because our education has low quality. In other words, our huge educational budget has been wasted. “How will he account for all those educational budget expenditures?” he asked. The Pre-employment Card is meant to be used for training HR. However, if the same teachers and facilities are used to educate them, the results will still be the same.

Issuing Indonesia Study Cards for college students is an odd proposal, because college students have different expenditures from ordinary school children. “How much are you going to give these college students? If you give Rp 1 million for each high school and vocational student a month, and give Rp 1.5 million for each college student a month, that would not do them any good. Why not give them some work to do instead, and pay them at minimum wage rates,” he said.

Indra’s stated that Ma’ruf’s idea about the National Research Agency is based on the primary issue that our research is insufficient. “If we integrate everything to a single agency, there would be less research performed. We should revitalize our tertiary education instead. In advanced countries, they prioritize research over education in colleges and universities. On the other hand, colleges and universities in Indonesia are mainly used for education and there isn’t much research going around.

As for Vice-Presidential Candidate Number 02’s promise to appoint more temporary teachers, we must admit that these teachers tend to be of low quality and currently there are too many of them already. “This policy is proposed just for electoral purposes,” Indra said disapprovingly. As for the plan to eliminate National Examinations, Jokowi also made the same promise in 2014 and did not keep it.

Reading Body Language
Bandung Institute of Technology (Institut Teknologi Bandung – “ITB”) Semiotics Expert Acep Iwan Saidi stated that in general, the Vice-Presidential Candidate Debate was flat and slow, especially during the Questions from Panelists session. The same question being asked to both candidates simply provides an opportunity for the second respondent to think of what answer to state. “This situation greatly facilitated Vice-Presidential Candidate 01 in managing his stamina in view of his advanced age. The Candidates’ Question-and-Answer Session contained nearly no counter-arguments or counter-gestures. Candidate 02 placed Candidate 01 as a kyai (Islamic elder scholar), an elder that he must respect,” Acep stated in his statement to the Independent Observer.

Acep concludes that there are several semiotic messages that specifically expressed by both Vice-Presidential Candidates through their words and actions. An example is how Ma’ruf held the mic: “He stated his vision and mission by standing before the stand-up mic, with his left hand holding the mic’s base. When he took out his cue cards, he changed to his right hand for holding on to the mic’s base, while his left hand raised the cards. His explanations were not sufficiently comprehensive, not all points “requested” by the theme was met. This means that he mostly memorizes his answers from texts, and he was trying to remain calm for the purpose,” he said. “It is the same in the next session, where he must speak with a loose mic. He kept on moving and standing close to his chair. This shows an effort to open up room for relaxed movement, as well as reflect from his advanced age with limited movement.”

Next, he analyzed Ma’ruf’s seating posture during the debate. Ma’ruf sat stiffly and formally as his opponent Sandiaga was talking, and his facial expression showed his lack of familiarity with his surroundings. “When his debate opponent spoke, the Candidate sat formally, not relaxed. His facial expression was uncommunicative – there was no smile, no eye movement, and he tended not to pay too much attention to his opponent. This is an indication of self-centered attitude born from lack of familiarity with his surroundings, a reflex frequently resorted to by elderly people in an unfamiliar milieu,” he said.

Acep further analyzed the content of Ma’ruf’s statements and how he said them. According to him, Ma’ruf attempted to “chase down” his opponent’s response to get definitive answers, such as the term “sedekah putih”. This shows that Vice-Presidential Candidate 01 is a man who thinks “by the book”. He seemed to ignore the actual answers and focused on taking his opponent down. “He also used many Arabic terms and quoted several religious principles in his presentation. This shows off his strong mastery of the Arabic language and his reflex as a kyai.

Furthermore, Ma’ruf Amin’s closing statement was only a reiteration of the incumbent’s programs that will be continued for implementation and perfected. He also slipped in conflict-based narration about hoaxes, and his personal attitude about the conflict,” Acep said. “This indicates that he positioned himself as the Incumbent’s Vice President. He was attempting to ensure everyone that age does not matter, what matters is the intent to fight for the nation. On the other hand, he represented himself as a character who tends to define and respond to issues from his own perception only – that hoaxes were only performed by the other side, while own side never does anything of the kind. Politically, this shows an indication of ‘cooking up issues’ mechanism.”

On the other hand, Sandiaga opened up his presentation by greeting Ma’ruf politely with the terms “Abah” (“father” or even “grandfather”), “Pak Yai” (short affectionate form of Pak Kyai. Kyai is a Islamic cleric) and “Pak Kyai”. He further solidifies his position as a “courteous young man who respects his elders” by congratulating Ma’ruf for his recent birthday. However, note that Sandiaga also planted a political mischief by identifying the other’s higher position as an elder: he reiterates to the public that his debate opponent is much older than him, that his debate opponent is his “abah”. “Sandiaga’s constant attention of his debate opponent and his gentle smile also shows an attitude of respect and appreciation of the other party,” Acep said.

Unlike Ma’ruf who constantly tried to remain calm, Sandiaga’s way of expressing his vision and mission using the loose mic truly expressed the fact that he was calm. Even though it is obvious that part of his speech was memorized from a text, it is covered with his mastery of the subject.  Sandiaga’s seating posture was also more relaxed, and he occasionally checked his gadget and walked towards the center of the stage when he spoke. Sandiaga also paused to adjust his coat every time he was about to speak. “He showed indications of being calm, relaxed, but remained serious. He checked to make sure that his attitude was already proper. Sandiaga also made hand gestures to calm down his supporters when he thought they were being disrespectful towards his opponent. This is a show of leadership, as he demonstrated dignity to his internal circle while also showing his courtesy towards his opponent,” Acep said.

Acep also concluded that Sandiaga’s use of real cases to illustrate the background for his programs and arguments to mean that the Candidate was not talking carelessly, but used empirical facts in his presentation. Sandiaga further said “Let us stop blaming each other” several times. This is meant to include not just Presidential Elections, but how he would like to view Indonesians to act towards each other in the future. This shows his social courage and his sincerity.

“Nearly all of Sandiaga’s explanation remained within the set time frame, except during the remaining time in the Q & A Session. This shows that he has great calm, strong emotional control, and good mastery of the subjects. Time control is his strongest advantage against Candidate Number 01,” Acep said. “On the other hand, Sandiaga’s closing statement shows his certainty of everything he has said during the debate, as well as a clear showinggo that he is much better than his debate opponent. “Three cards are excessive. It is ineffective and wasteful, while we have one multi-functional card available already.” In the debate, this is a metaphorical rhetoric that cleanly breaks all of his opponents’ ideas throughout the debate,” he said. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)