Jakarta’s Governor Stands by His Record as Critics Take Aim

By : Lenny Tristia Tambun & Deti Mega Purnamasari | on 10:33 AM September 16, 2013
Category : News, Jakarta, Featured

Is the honeymoon over? Political experts have piled on Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, calling the reformer 'nothing... spectacular.' (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno) Is the honeymoon over? Political experts have piled on Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, calling the reformer 'nothing... spectacular.' (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Nearly a year since being sworn is as Jakarta’s governor, Joko Widodo has come in for sharp criticism, mainly for failing to live up to the public’s lofty ideals of the change that his leadership was meant to usher in.

Iberamsjah, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia, said over the weekend that the highly regarded governor had yet to show any significant progress in solving the litany of problems that the capital faced, despite his enduring high popularity.

“Joko Widodo isn’t all that great,” Iberamsjah said as quoted by Okezone.com.

“He only seems good because his predecessors were terrible. Nothing was solved during Fauzi Bowo’s time,” he added, referring to the previous governor who lost twice to Joko in last year’s election — once in the main ballot and then in the runoff vote. “As for Joko, he has only half succeeded, but the reality is he doesn’t have any spectacular programs. Nothing is phenomenal because indeed nothing about him is spectacular nor phenomenal.”

Click to read: Joko Under Fire From Central Government After Discrediting LCGC Scheme Click to read: Joko Under Fire From Central Government After Discrediting LCGC Scheme

Iberamsjah criticized the mounting calls for Joko to run for president, saying the governor should first prove that he could handle the problems of the city before taking on those of the country.

“He should first resolve the problems of traffic and flooding before he runs for president,” Iberamsjah said, adding that abandoning his duties as the Jakarta governor would give Joko a less-than-impressive track record going into next year’s presidential ballot.

“It’s a shame that the law allows subdistrict chiefs to become district chiefs, district chiefs to become governors and governors to become president. That should be prohibited. They should first fulfill two-thirds, or at least half, of their time in office. But we have no such regulations.”

Amien Rais, the chief patron of the National Mandate Party (PAN), was also underwhelmed with Joko’s record, saying that his previous success as mayor of the Central Java city of Solo, before moving to Jakarta, was “manufactured.”

“In Solo, it was his deputy, F.X. Hadi Rudyatmo, who did all the work,” Amien said as quoted by Tempo.co.

“I’m from Solo, and you can still find impoverished and rundown neighborhoods there,” he added.

He said Joko could not be called a successful leader in Jakarta either because the city continued to face chronic traffic congestion and grinding poverty.

“He’s managed to clean up the area around Tanah Abang Market, but we’re still experiencing traffic problems,” Amien said.

Residents of Solo, Central Java, hold up signs backing a Joko Widodo presidential run. (JG Photo/Ali Lutfi) Residents of Solo, Central Java, hold up signs backing a Joko Widodo presidential run. (JG Photo/Ali Lutfi)

For his part, Joko shrugged off the criticism of his first year in office.

“It’s up to [the critics] to judge. What’s important is for me to continue working and doing my tasks,” he said at City Hall, adding that he would work to address the criticism of where he had come up short.

“All that matters is that I continue working for the people.”

Others have criticized the administration’s record of cracking down on low-income groups such as street vendors and illegal squatters in bringing order to the city, saying wealthier Jakartans are just as much to blame for many of the city’s woes.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, the chairman of the city-funded Jakarta Transportation Council (DTKJ), said that while the administration could claim success in improving traffic in Tanah Abang by relocating street vendors and in improving flood mitigation by evicting squatters from the Pluit polder, it should also crack down on zoning violations by those building offices and homes in water catchment areas.

“Don’t just be strict on the lower classes but also the upper class,” Azas said.

He added he was concerned that the administration’s lack of attention toward the proliferation of illegally constructed buildings would exacerbate the city’s already dire traffic congestion.

“All efforts are needed by the city administration to ease traffic flow. Reorganizing street vendors and street parking is a good start, but what about all the apartment buildings? Have all of them complied with environmental impact assessments?” he said.

“Don’t just relocate vendors and be oblivious to other traffic-related issues that need to be addressed.”

The city administration is also claiming success with its health care scheme, enshrined in the Jakarta Healthy Card (KJS) that Joko instituted last November in an attempt to increase the capital’s health service capacity and provide free health care for an initial 4.7 million Jakarta residents.

Under the scheme, card holders are entitled to free medical treatment at community health centers and third-class wards in local hospitals, although the huge surge in those seeking free treatment overwhelmed participating hospitals.

A parallel program, the Jakarta Smart Card (KJP) scheme, is aimed at supporting underprivileged students, by giving them Rp 240,000 worth of monthly aid to support their school needs. Under the scheme, eligible junior high school students and elementary school students receive Rp 210,000 and Rp 180,000 per month, respectively.

“From my observations in schools and hospitals, everything seems to be fine,” Joko said.

“There are no problems. If anything needs to be fixed, then we will do so.”

Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said that despite the initial problem with the high demand for free health care, the KJS scheme had been well-received by the World Health Organization.

“The WHO has been observing the implementation of the KJS for several months now, and it has given the scheme its support,” he said last week, following a meeting with WHO officials. “They have not offered any criticism of the scheme.”

He added that the WHO officials had expressed confidence that the KJS was an effective program in offering underprivileged families free access to health services.

The deputy governor also expressed hope that the program would be promoted by the WHO as a model for free health services across Indonesia.

Critics contend that both the KJS and KJP programs are populist measures that are not sustainable over the long term, and that Joko has no real successes to speak of after a year in office.

They also point out that on the issue of clearing squatters from the Pluit and Ria Rio polders, it was Basuki who took the lead — as well as much of the flak from those who refused to move.

The deputy governor has also been credited as the driving force behind the removal of the illegal street vendors from the Tanah Abang area, a campaign in which he persisted despite threats of legal action by those affected and despite running foul of a city councilor who was also one of the main rent collectors in the area.

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