Indonesian presidential debate

Jokowi, Prabowo spar over economic issues

President Joko Widodo (left) and challenger Prabowo Subianto during the live debate yesterday. Mr Joko listed his achievements in office since 2014, while Mr Prabowo criticised the government over infrastructure projects.
President Joko Widodo (left) and challenger Prabowo Subianto during the live debate yesterday. Mr Joko listed his achievements in office since 2014, while Mr Prabowo criticised the government over infrastructure projects.PHOTO: TV ONE

Both outline competing views on issues like energy, food in bid to sway undecided voters

The two candidates in the forthcoming presidential election - incumbent Joko Widodo, who is seeking a second term in office, and his challenger Prabowo Subianto - went head-to-head on economic issues, a key election topic, in the second live television debate last night.

During the 90-minute encounter, both men outlined their competing views on energy, food, infrastructure, natural resources and the environment in an effort to sway undecided voters, reported to number more than 10 per cent of the total 190 million registered voters in the world's third-largest democracy.

Mr Joko, 57, a reform-minded leader who has chosen prominent conservative cleric Ma'ruf Amin as his running mate, not surprisingly listed his achievements since coming to power in late 2014. He pointed to the construction of 191,000km of roads and 58,000 irrigation channels in villages across the sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.

He also touted several other infrastructure projects, including roads, seaports and airports, that his administration had undertaken in the past four years.

"We want to continue to do this so that the connectivity between islands, provinces and cities is good and, therefore, brings ease and speed to logistics and the transportation of goods. Forget the competitiveness without it," said Mr Joko, popularly known as Jokowi.

In response, Mr Prabowo, 67, a retired army general who is pairing up with former businessman and former Jakarta deputy governor Sandiaga Uno, sharply criticised the government for inefficiency in the projects.

"Many of them have been carried out quickly without thorough feasibility studies, causing inefficiency and losses," he said.

 
 
 

"Infrastructure is for the people, rather than people for the infrastructure. Infrastructure is not a monument and it must be beneficial," Mr Prabowo added, citing the light rapid transit network in Palembang, South Sumatra, as well as Kertajati International Airport in Majalengka Regency in West Java as poorly targeted infrastructure.

The debate also touched on the issue of food security, which panellists connected with Industry 4.0, which refers to digital technologies - such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence - that many say will reshape the global economy.

Mr Prabowo said he would "guarantee" that Indonesia can provide its own food, while Mr Joko, taking a jibe at his opponent, said Mr Prabowo seemed "less optimistic" about the future.

The debate yesterday was the second of five scheduled before the election on April 17. The next one will be held on March 17.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2019, with the headline 'Jokowi, Prabowo spar over economic issues '. Print Edition | Subscribe