Saturday, October 25, 2014

The six labours of Jokowi

Joko Widodo - A former furniture salesman, Metallica lover, and wearer of Napalm Death t-shirts

1. Deal with parliament

Jokowi's rival, Prabowo Subianto, has tried to thwart the president-elect before he begins by signing 62 per cent of the Indonesian parliamentary numbers to a so-called "permanent coalition" in opposition. Even if this disintegrates as most observers expect, Jokowi will still need to deal with a change-averse parliament that ANU academic Steven Sherlock describes as a set of fiefdoms desiring payoffs. And he must do it without getting his hands dirty.

2. Appoint ministers

Jokowi performed an act of radical transparency on Thursday night by putting names of proposed cabinet members on Facebook and asking for public input. Will he use ministries to reward loyalty or buy parliamentary support? He's inexperienced and needs good ministers. Will he choose campaign backers? Technocrats? He's made no promises but how long can he remain pure?

3. Bureaucratic corruption

Most transactions involving the Indonesian government - from application for licences to tenders for public works - involve payoffs to bureaucratic or political gatekeepers. The culture includes the police and the courts, which makes redress uncertain. Tax office corruption cripples revenue collection. It's the biggest drag on Indonesia's future.

4. Human capital

Indonesia is approaching a "demographic dividend", a boom in the proportion of people of working age. But its schools are substandard, its teachers low paid and poorly trained. Its health system is improving but has far to go. Millions have no access to potable water. Without improving Indonesia's human capital, the boom in numbers of young workers may become a liability.

5. Infrastructure

With crumbling roads, inefficient sea ports and airports, poor infrastructure knocks 3 per cent off Indonesia's annual growth rate. Jakarta's traffic congestion alone cuts it by 0.6 per cent. The Yudhoyono government wanted $160 billion in new spending by 2015, but a fraction of that is committed and planned, and corruption makes private partners reluctant to commit.

6. The budget

Only 12 per cent of Indonesians pay tax and its tax take is a world's worst practice 11.7 per cent of GDP. Of this tiny income, 25 to 30 per cent is spent subsidising the price of fuel. Too much of the rest goes in corruption and mismanagement. Jokowi must reduce the energy subsidy and increase the tax take so the government can afford to supply basic public services.

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