Feathers fly over V-P candidate's chicken rice comparison

Mr Sandiaga Uno (above), who is Mr Prabowo Subianto's running mate, said chicken rice costs $3.50 in Singapore, compared with about $5 in Indonesia. However, his political opponents have challenged the claim.
Mr Sandiaga Uno (above), who is Mr Prabowo Subianto's running mate, said chicken rice costs $3.50 in Singapore, compared with about $5 in Indonesia. However, his political opponents have challenged the claim.

He cites price of dish to illustrate high cost of food in Indonesia

A plate of chicken rice is more expensive in Indonesia than in Singapore, said vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno last week, thrusting the popular dish into the centre of a heated political debate.

Mr Sandiaga, the running mate of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, made the claim as he criticised President Joko Widodo's government for failing to keep food prices affordable.

Mr Sandiaga said chicken rice costs $3.50 in Singapore, compared with about 50,000 rupiah (S$5) in Indonesia.

His political opponents, however, have challenged the claim.

Mr Ace Hasan Syadzily, a spokesman for Mr Joko's presidential campaign team, said chicken rice can cost as little as 15,000 rupiah. He said Mr Sandiaga's comments were misleading and an attempt at misinformation.

Mr Sandiaga had based his claim on data his team had gathered, which showed that Indonesians, especially those in Jakarta, generally pay more than what Singaporeans pay to get healthy foods of equal quality. He questioned why this was so, despite the fact that Singapore is not an agrarian country that has farming lands like Indonesia.

"How can healthy foods such as vegetables, animal-based protein, yogurt, ice cream, milk, honey and chicken be more expensive in Indonesia?" he told reporters last Monday.

Mr Sandiaga said food prices in Indonesia are generally more expensive than those in other South-east Asian countries because of a long distribution channel. Food can pass through a chain of merchants, from wholesalers to resellers, before they reach retailers.

Jobs and food prices have emerged as the top issues for voters in next April's presidential election.

President Joko and his running mate, Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin, 75, are competing against Mr Prabowo, a former army general, and Mr Sandiaga, a businessman-turned-politician.

 

While Indonesia has kept inflation in check, there are complaints of rising food prices at the grassroots, partly due to the weakening rupiah, which has made imported raw materials more expensive.

The production of Indonesia's signature product tempeh, or fermented soya bean cakes, for example, is heavily reliant on imported raw items. More than three-quarters of soya beans consumed in Indonesia last year were imported. South-east Asia's largest economy also imports millions of tonnes of wheat annually to make flour, the raw item for noodles.

Mr Sandiaga's remarks are a reminder of how Indonesia has seen rising food prices, caused by a mix of poor government management and external factors, Mr Sudirman Said, director of research and debate for the Prabowo-Sandiaga pair, told The Straits Times.

"Indonesia's industry chain of animal husbandry, which includes the production of animal feeds and prime breeds, is still heavily dependant on imports," he said, citing corn as an example of something the country has to import in large amounts, which in turn drives up food prices.

Mr Septiaji Eko Nugroho, chairman of Indonesian anti-slander society (Mafindo), said Mr Sandiaga's claim could be a "political gimmick" to draw attention to the food price issue, saying it cannot necessarily be labelled a hoax.

He said the spread of falsehoods has intensified as the election draws nearer. But if anyone wins by resorting to the spread of falsehoods, the whole nation would be losers, he told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2018, with the headline 'Feathers fly over V-P candidate's chicken rice comparison'. Print Edition | Subscribe