Indonesia could have matched China in poverty eradication if previous presidents, such as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, pictured, did not mess up, Prabowo Subianto said during Saturday night's fifth and final debate ahead of next week's election. (Antara Photo/M Agung Rajasa)

Prabowo Blames Jokowi's Predecessors for Not Matching China's Achievement  


APRIL 14, 2019

Jakarta. In a rare departure from his xenophobic rhetoric, presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto praised China for its drastic reduction of poverty over the past 40 years, a feat he believes Indonesia should have emulated if previous presidents stayed true to the country's economic plan. 

Prabowo said Indonesia was in danger of deindustrialization, making it hard for the country to eradicate poverty, create jobs for its 131 million-strong workforce, and reverse its trade balance deficit. 

"To be honest, I do not blame Mr. Jokowi," Prabowo said in the final presidential debate on Saturday night, referring to President Joko Widodo by his popular nickname. 

"This is our fault as a country, which has been going for a dozen or even tens of years," he said. "The People's Republic of China can eradicate poverty in 40 years. We need to be brave to learn from such a great lesson."

China has lifted more than 500 million people out of extreme poverty since 1981, reducing its poverty level to 2 percent last year from 88 percent. It expects to completely eradicate poverty by 2020. Indonesia's poverty level was 9.8 percent last year, its lowest in history.

Prabowo said Indonesia has far departed from the economic management guidelines laid out in its constitution. Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution emphasizes, among others, state power over the country's key resources, the importance of cooperatives and that the common interest should take precedence over private interests.

"I do not blame you, because this has been a big mistake. A big mistake made by presidents before you," Prabowo said.  

At least one member of the audience voiced disagreement, noting that the remark constituted a direct attack on Prabowo's key ally in his coalition, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who ruled the country between 2004 and 2014.

But the former Army general did not budge. "All of us should be held accountable and that's my opinion," Prabowo said.

Topics under discussion during the fifth and final presidential debate were the economy, social welfare, finance and investment, and trade and industry. 

Jokowi, for the most part, highlighted his efforts to build infrastructure to address the country's legacy of insufficient economic development. 

"This is not as straightforward as turning your hand: we produce something, then sell that abroad," the president said.

Jokowi said infrastructure is the first step of his development plan to increase the country's production capacity. 

"The first big step is infrastructure development, the second stage will focus on the development of human resources, the third is structural reform and the fourth is technology and innovation. These are the big steps we want to take," Jokowi said.