The capital’s incumbent governor highlighted his administration’s program and said he has already improved Jakarta’s economy, while his two contenders vowed to bolster economic growth and tackle inequality, during the long-awaited gubernatorial debate at the Bidakara Hotel in South Jakarta on Friday evening (13/01).
How to create job opportunities to eradicate poverty and narrow the economic gap was the core question raised during the second session of Friday’s debate, in which three candidate pairs presented their visions and missions.
Jakarta, with more than 10 million residents, is one of the provinces with the biggest income disparity, said the debate moderator, former news anchor Ira Koesno.
Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, backed by a coalition led by the Democratic Party, promised to boost “economic growth with equity,” which he said would reduce Jakarta’s unemployment rate in the next five years.
“Better economic growth will create job opportunities and decrease unemployment,” said Agus, a son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“We plan to revolve aid funds and interest-free venture capital. This is expected to help reduce the unemployment rate.”
Agus and his running mate senior bureaucrat Sylviana Murni plan to distribute Rp 1 billion ($75,075) to each ward head, or rukun warga (RW), and Rp 50 million to small and medium enterprises in the capital city. According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data, there are 930,620 small and medium enterprises and 2,709 RWs in Jakarta.
Agus also promised to support 120,000 poor families with Rp 5 million to reduce the economic gap. After a quick calculation, Agus-Sylviana’s program will cost Jakarta’s Rp 67.160 trillion budget at least Rp 49.840 trillion, not yet including health care, education, infrastructure development and salaries of the city’s officials.
Incumbent Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama claimed that Jakarta’s economic gap and unemployment rate have improved since he assumed the office in November 2014. The economic gap has been narrowed to 0.41 from 0.43, while the unemployment rate has declined to 6 percent from 8.3 percent.
“This is because we have run six programs [to provide] health insurance, education, housing, transportation, food, stable price of rice and venture capital,” Ahok said.
Anies Baswedan, endorsed by the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and his running mate businessman Sandiaga Uno said they “would bolster economic growth by mobilizing the private sector.”
Tackling Floods and Eviction Frays
Questions about forced evictions were at the center of the third session of the televised debate. The candidates were also asked how they would handle urban planning to prevent flooding — a recurring problem faced by Jakarta.
Forced evictions have been rampant under Ahok’s administration. The governor has staunchly defended his policy despite widespread public protests. This was strongly criticized by his two contenders, who have vowed during their campaign that they will not follow suit.
Anies, former education minister, said during he would focus on “urban renewal” rather than evictions, which he deemed “unfair.”
“We will not eradicate the poor but poverty. We will not conduct evictions. We will negotiate,” he said.
“There are many other ways,” Agus, Indonesian Military (TNI) major, said adding that evictions only increase poverty and unemployment.
Ahok’s camp, supported by a coalition led by the pro-government Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), insisted that evictions are necessary.
“Jakarta is the capital, its residents should not live on riverbanks or under bridges. We have provided low-cost apartments,” Ahok’s running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat said.
Ahok added, it is inhumane to have people live on riverbanks and become flood victims who lose everything each year during rainy season.
“Even though they have been living there for years, it is wrong. We don’t seek to punish them, but relocate them to safer areas,” Ahok said.
“I think it is cruel to justify and defend [anti-relocation policies] to win the gubernatorial race,” he added.
In 2015, as the current administration has been pushing its river normalization projects, the city saw more than 100 evictions, which affected nearly 30,000 residents, according to data from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.