Indonesia's V-P candidate Ma'ruf Amin pledges to help President Jokowi on economy

Indonesian incumbent Presidential candidate Joko Widodo (left) and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin wave after registering for the 2019 presidential election, on Aug 10, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Vice-presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin has pledged to help incumbent President Joko Widodo reduce the gap between the rich and poor in Indonesia if the pair wins next April's presidential poll.

"It's the new wave economy. A people's economy that is aimed at reducing a range of gaps: between the weak and the strong, between different regions across Indonesia, and between local and global products," Mr Ma'ruf was quoted by news portal as saying.

His remarks suggest he is keen to help manage the nation's economy.

Mr Joko, who is seeking re-election, had last month unveiled Mr Ma'ruf , 75, then chairman of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), as his running mate. Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, who are predominantly moderate.

Mr Ma'ruf resigned as MUI chairman in late August.

He is also a senior member of Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama and has a track record as a regional legislator and lawmaker. He was a member of the Presidential Advisory Board in former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration.

Mr Ma'ruf said the the new wave economy was needed as the old economy led to conglomerates and the trickle-down effect did not materialise, reported.

He added that the period through 2024 will be used to build "a strong runway" so that after then Indonesia can "take off".

In Indonesia, the president is both head of state and government, with his ceremonial duties usually delegated to the vice-president. But the president can share power with the vice-president at his discretion.

Political analyst Firman Manan of the University of Padjadjaran, West Java, told The Straits Times there has been only one vice-president who had great influence: Mr Jusuf Kalla when he was the No. 2 to then president Yudhoyono from 2004 to 2009. This was because Mr Kalla was chairman of Golkar, Indonesia's oldest political party, he added.

However, Mr Firman expressed doubts about Mr Ma'ruf. "It's rather difficult to imagine Ma'ruf Amin playing a role in governing the country's economy. He does not hold significant political power, therefore does not have a high bargaining position," he said.

"Besides, his expertise is not on macroeconomics. His expertise is limited to the Sharia economic law."

Dr Dimas Nugroho, executive director of Akar Rumput Strategic Consulting, told ST that it is more relevant for Mr Ma'ruf to handle issues such as how to build a healthy society based on Indonesia's adopted principle of pluralism.

If Mr Ma'ruf deals with economic issues, he should be aware that he is a leader not only of Indonesian Muslims and that poverty is problem not only for Muslims.

"If you go to Singkawang, West Kalimantan, there are many Chinese Indonesians who are poor," he said, adding that there are malnourished people in East Nusa Tenggara, a predominantly Catholic province.

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