Editorial: Another Misguided Step From Jokowi

FEBRUARY 08, 2015

Another day, another controversial move from President Joko Widodo. We are left scratching our heads seeing him witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between a little-known company led by Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, his political supporter, and Malaysian automaker Proton, to build an Indonesian car.

We are told that this venture is a business-to-business deal, and has nothing to do with the state and will not use state money. As much as we try to believe it, too many questions arise.

First, is it really pure business-to-business? We doubt it. Hendropriyono’s Adiperkasa Citra Lestari (ACL) is too little known to be trusted by the Malaysian government to be teamed up on such a huge project. It needs an absolute guarantee from Indonesian authorities to even get this far. Joko’s presence is the guarantee. If we have yet to call this an abuse of power then it is cronyism.

Second, do we believe that there will be no tax payer money involved? Again, we doubt it.

Embarking on a national car project will always need government’s heavy support just to survive, let alone succeed. Just ask Proton and Mahathir Mohamad, the then-prime minister of Malaysia who pioneered his country’s national car.

Joko’s administration will have to give its full support to the project — whether in terms of tax deduction, subsidies or even direct financing.

Third, do we believe that the ACL has the capacity to handle this project? Again, we doubt it, but in all honesty, we don’t know, because it has no track record of making cars.

As hard as we try to believe that it’s for good for Indonesian people, we end up concluding it’s just another paying off of political debts. And, the question follows — who else gets what project?