Indonesia’s president says it’s his ‘dream’ to reach near-zero poverty 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, speaks to journalists next to Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, left, after their inauguration at the parliament building in Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP Photo)
Updated 21 October 2019

Indonesia’s president says it’s his ‘dream’ to reach near-zero poverty 

  • Widodo pledged to prioritize development after being sworn in for a second term
  • Widodo is a former furniture businessman and VP Amin is a septuagenarian religious leader, who still holds the position of chairman of Indonesia’s highest authority on Islamic matters

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, along with vice president Ma’ruf Amin, was sworn into office on Sunday with a promise to prioritize infrastructure and human resource development which he said could make Indonesia one of the top five economies in the world with a near-zero poverty rate. 

The oath-taking ceremony took place during the plenary session of the People’s Consultative Assembly with speaker Bambang Soesatyo presiding over the event. 

In his inaugural speech, delivered before parliament and Asia Pacific heads of state and government as well as special envoys of global leaders, Widodo said by the centennial anniversary of Indonesia’s independence in 2045, the country could avoid from being trapped as a middle income country and progress into a developed country with an annual income of Rp320 million [$22,633] per capita. 

“That’s our target. Our common target. Our dream is that by 2045, Indonesia’s gross domestic product will reach $7 trillion. Indonesia will be one of the world’s five biggest economies with near-zero poverty rate. We have to get there,” he said, adding that his administration has made the calculation that showed the target “really makes sense and achievable.”

“Although the GDP target may seem unrealistic now, it would be possible to achieve by resolving first some of Indonesia’s key economic problems,” Esther Sri Astuti, an economist at Jakarta-based think-tank Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) told Arab News.

She said the government should be able to boost long-term investment, increase exports, tax revenues, and government spending for the right development project allocation.

He also said that he would continue to break away from the old way of doing things with an economic transformation as the end result, such as by cutting down civil service echelons to two from the current four-tier system, lengthy bureaucratic red tape, and simplifying laws and regulations that could hamper job-creating investments. 

Widodo, who has made infrastructure development as his signature work in his first term, said he would continue to make it a priority since infrastructure would provide easier access to tourism sites, as the country eyes a target of 20 million foreign tourist arrival in 2020.

Political analyst from Pelita Harapan University, Emrus Sihombing told Arab News that despite delivering promises to break from the monotonous regularity, Widodo failed to address any strategy to combat the endemic corruption and to fight against drugs. 

“These two are our national problems and they pose serious threats to our country,” Sihombing said, adding that despite the limited time available to deliver the speech, Widodo could have included them in the speech if he considered the two issues as important. 

In recent weeks leading up to the swearing in ceremony, students and activists held rallies in big cities across the country to protest major amendments in the anti-graft law that they said weakened the anti-graft commission and the enactment of a new criminal code with clauses that could threaten democracy and free speech. 

Sihombing also said that Widodo could have taken the opportunity to mention about Indonesia’s foreign policy, giving a nod to the foreign dignitaries that attended his inauguration as president of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. 

In stark contrast to Widodo’s first inauguration five years ago in which he and then-VP Jusuf Kalla jubilantly rode in an open horse-drawn, royal-style carriage along a thoroughfare to greet supporters after the swearing-in ceremony, there was a waning enthusiasm in Widodo’s oath-taking ceremony today.

It was reflected by a trending hashtag on Twitter calling for users to turn off the television. The ceremony was broadcast live on national television. 

Tight security presence was also very visible this time in the capital with streets surrounding the Parliament building and the presidential palace were closed and lined with barricades.

The police said they have arrested more than 30 terror suspects with links to a Daesh-affiliated militant group, Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), after chief security minister Wiranto was stabbed in his left stomach by a JAD follower on Oct. 10 during a visit to neighboring province of Banten. 

Widodo, a former furniture businessman and Amin, who is a septuagenarian religious leader and still holds the position as chairman of Indonesia’s highest authority on Islamic matters, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), won the April 2019 election with 55.5 percent out of the total votes. 


Italy cancels Venice Carnival in bid to halt spread of virus

Updated 13 min 10 sec ago

Italy cancels Venice Carnival in bid to halt spread of virus

  • Authorities said three people in Venice have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, all of them in their late 80s

CODOGNO: Scrambling to contain rapidly rising number of new coronavirus infections in Italy, the largest amount outside Asia, authorities on Sunday stepped up measures to ban public gatherings, including stopping Venice’s famed carnival events, which have drawn tens of thousands of revelers to a region that is now in the heart of the outbreak.
“The ordinance is immediately operative and will go into effect at midnight,” announced Veneto regional Gov. Luca Zaia, whose area includes Venice, where thousands packed St. Mark’s Square to join in carnival fun. Carnival, would have run through Tuesday. Buses, trains and other forms of public transport — including boats in Venice — were being disinfected, Zaia told reporters. Museums were also ordered to shut down after Sunday in Venice, a top tourist draw anytime of the year.
Authorities said three people in Venice have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, all of them in their late 80s and who are hospitalized in critical condition. Zaia said among those infected was a nurse.
Nearly all of Italy’s 133 known cases are clustered in the north, at least 25 of them in the Veneto region.
Authorities expressed frustration they haven’t been able to track down the source of the virus spread in the north, which surfaced last week when an Italian man in Codogno in his late 30s became critically ill.
“The health officials haven’t been yet able to pinpoint Patient Zero,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the national Civil Protection agency, told reporters in Rome.
At first, it was widely presumed that the man was infected by an Italian friend he dined with and who recently returned from his job, based in Shanghai. When the friend tested negative for the virus, attention turned to several Chinese who live in town and who frequent the same cafe visited by the stricken man. But Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana told reporters all of those Chinese have tested negative, too.
So for now, Borrelli indicated, strategy is concentrating on closures and other restrictions to try to stem the spread in the country which already had taken such measures early on in the global virus alarm, including banning direct flights from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. Italy has also tested millions of airport passengers arriving from other places for any sign of fever.
In Lombardy, with 90 cases, so far the hardest-hit region, schools and universities were ordered to stay closed in the coming days, and sporting events were canceled. Lombardy’s ban on public events also extended to Masses in churches in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
But while public Masses were forbidden in some towns in the hardest-hit areas, in the south, thousands turned out in the port city of Bari for a Mass by visiting Pope Francis, who shook hands with the faithful during his public appearance.Among those shaking the pope’s hand in Bari was Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who came to Bari for the event.
Museums, schools, universities and other public venues will be shut as well in Venice and the rest of Veneto. The shutdown is expected to last at least through March 1.
In Turin, the main city of the northern Piedmont region, a least three cases were diagnosed. That region also announced closure of all schools and universities.
The biggest jump in cases of confirmed COVID-19 was reported by authorities in Lombardy, a populous region which includes the country’s financial capital, Milan. Nearly all the cases were in the countryside, mainly in Codogno and nine neighboring towns, where only grocery stores and pharmacies were apparently allowed to stay open while other businesses were ordered shuttered and people — in theory at least — weren’t supposed to enter or leave the towns.
Melissa Catanacci, who lives on one of Codogno’s main roads, said that while entry points were open, others were closed.
Speaking by telephone from her home, she said she ventured outside for a stroll in the morning along with her husband and two children, ages 10 and 13.
“Every quarter-hour or so a car goes by” on the main road, she said. With businesses closed, the usual Sunday “passeggiata” — a leisurely stroll through local streets — didn’t last very long, she said. ”Nothing is open,” not even the town supermarket despite permission to do so, she said. “After a half hour, one turns around and goes back home.”
With school to stay shut through the week, her children were visiting other friends’ houses and vice versa, she said, to break the boredom. For Catanacci, there was no reason to be overly concerned. COVID-19 is “a new virus, it’s still unknown to our body” and its antibodies, Catanacci said, adding: “it’s similar to influenza.”
Italians’ other cherished Sunday routines – from soccer to church-going – were being touched by the spread of the contagion, almost entirely based in the north. Sports events in the affected northern areas, including local kids’ sports team practices to three Serie A soccer matches, were canceled following a long meeting Saturday night by the Italian government to decide infection-containing measures.
Italy’s explosion of infections was sparking concern elsewhere on the European continent.
Austria’s top security official, Franz Lang said that the country could activate border controls to Italy within one hour. Normally both countries are part of the visa and passport-free Schengen zone, but in specific situations, single countries can reactivate border controls. Lang said the situation on the border and possible reactions to the virus outbreak would be discussed in meetings Monday, local Austrian media reported.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte on Saturday night said for now Italy wasn’t suspending Schengen zone rules.
In Switzerland, which, like Austria, borders Italy, there was a call for calm. Daniel Koch, the head of the department for contagious diseases at the heath office, told SRF public broadcaster that the country had not been contacted regarding possibly infected persons traveling to Switzerland and that there was no need to change the current strategy.
“The news from Italy are worrisome ... but it is too early to think that a wave is rolling our way,” Koch said.
German travelers returning from northern Italy were being asked to check the official German health adviseries online regarding possible exposure to the virus. The German health ministry said it had initiated a phone conference for all European Union public health authorities about the outbreak in northern Italy on Monday.
Italy’s first cases — that of a married Chinese couple who were on vacation in Rome — surfaced in early February.
To date, two deaths — of elderly persons in the north — have been reported among the 133 cases.
Elsewhere in Europe, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said that authorities were getting ready for a possible outbreak in France of the new virus. In an interview published Sunday in French newspaper Le Parisien, he said he was monitoring very closely the “very serious” situation, including in neighboring Italy.
France reported earlier this month the first death outside Asia of a person infected with the virus, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.