Indonesian President Jokowi moves to burnish govt image

Mr Joko, reshuffled his Cabinet in July 2016 following bickering and public disagreements among ministers that confused the public and investors. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, appears to have become more aggressive in highlighting his government's performance over its three years in office, prompting speculation about his re-election bid ahead of the 2019 race.

Led by the office of the presidential chief of staff (KSP), his ministers overseeing various sectors ranging from law and security to economic and social affairs, are set to hold a series of press conferences on their respective performances this week, starting on Tuesday (Oct 17).

Just like last year, the KSP, which is tasked with monitoring the ministries and coordination among them, has gathered and analysed data from various ministries, state institutions and other stakeholders regarding the government's performance.

On Monday, the KSP also invited editors of national media outlets to attend separate closed-door discussions, on topics such as politics and security, as well as social and legal affairs, where the media were provided with "background" information.

In the third year of his presidency, the president has been focusing on ensuring and consolidating his programs at all levels of administration. In the first two years, he focused on laying the groundwork for his programs and trying to speed up the work, including by, among other actions, scrapping numerous policies deemed ineffective and cutting red tape.

However, problems relating to communications have continued to plague his Cabinet at a time when various social media platforms have become a crucial tool in altering the political landscape ahead of the election.

Some of his ministers are regarded as having failed to establish effective public communication and instead have caused controversy, prompting Jokowi to once again remind his ministers not to issue sensitive policies without consulting all stakeholders. One recent example is the plan to implement a five-day school week, which Joko eventually cancelled in the face of strong opposition from Islamic groups.

Joko, who is seeking re-election in two years time, reshuffled his Cabinet in July 2016 following bickering and public disagreements among ministers that confused the public and investors. At that time, he instructed his new and existing Cabinet members to work in synergy and to better communicate to avoid conflicting statements regarding policies and the government's development agenda.

A number of national pollsters have released studies showing that his approval rating after three years in office remains higher than 60 per cent. Among the pollsters are Indikator Politik Indonesia, Saiful Mujadi Research and Consulting (SMRC) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The surveys conclude that Joko's macro -economic performance is perceived as positive, although inequality remains a problem.

In terms of anti-corruption efforts, however, Joko has been criticised for his reluctance to take a firm stance in opposition to the ongoing politically driven efforts to undermine the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Political observer Yunarto Wijaya suggested that the government should provide better access for the public to allow them to assess the progress of the government's programs. Such a move could raise satisfaction levels among the people, which could eventually help Joko secure votes in 2019.

"The public has a significant role in disseminating information particularly through social media. The more the people know about what the government is doing, the higher their satisfaction is likely to be," he said.

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