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. 


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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