Indonesia’s Transformation Under Jokowi: A Tale of Progress and Unfinished Business

Indonesia’s Transformation Under Jokowi: A Tale of Progress and Unfinished Business

Indonesia, a nation of 280 million people, has experienced remarkable economic and infrastructural growth, much of it under President Joko Widodo’s decade-long leadership. Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has been pivotal in propelling Indonesia from a per capita income of $350 three decades ago to $5,000 today. His tenure has seen the development of Jakarta’s metro system and Southeast Asia’s inaugural high-speed rail connecting Jakarta and Bandung, contributing to an average GDP growth of 5% per year.

While Jokowi’s economic stewardship earns him a B+ rating from analysts, his legacy is marred by an inability to significantly disrupt the entrenched elite that stifles business innovation. Indonesia’s standing at 115th in the Corruption Perceptions Index underscores this challenge. Jokowi’s efforts to fight corruption have been criticized, particularly his approach towards the Corruption Eradication Commission.

On the manufacturing front, Indonesia has lagged behind its Southeast Asian counterparts in attracting high-value-added manufacturing investments, with Vietnam and Thailand seizing opportunities as businesses diversify away from China. Jokowi has instead focused on capitalizing on Indonesia’s dominance in nickel production, essential for electric-vehicle batteries, by banning its export to encourage domestic processing and manufacturing.

However, this strategy might not foster the desired “human capital spillover” seen in other nations’ investments into electronics and manufacturing sectors. Additionally, Jokowi’s environmental and capital relocation initiatives have drawn skepticism. His ambitious project to build a new capital in Nusantara, despite Jakarta’s urgent environmental challenges, has yet to attract significant private sector interest.

As Jokowi’s tenure nears its end, his succession plan raises concerns. His endorsement of Prabowo Subianto, a figure with a controversial human rights record, alongside his relatively inexperienced son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, for vice-presidential candidacy, has sparked debate. Despite legal and ethical questions, Prabowo, leveraging Jokowi’s popularity, is poised for victory. icon

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