Sun, Sep 30, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Jakarta confirms Widodo as capital’s next governor

CAPITAL GAINS?The recently elected leader has promised to tackle the city’s grinding infrastructure problems which experts say are harming the economy

Bloomberg

Joko Widodo, the mayor of a Central Java city with fewer than a million people, was confirmed as governor-elect of Indonesia’s 9.6 million-strong capital, the Jakarta Election Commission said.

Widodo beat Governor Fauzi Bowo, who was seeking a second term, with 2.47 million votes, or 53.82 percent, Sumarno, chairman of the commission ballot counting team, said at a press briefing in Jakarta today. Bowo received 2.12 million votes, or 46.18 percent.

Widodo is to be inaugurated on Oct. 7 if Bowo does not file an objection with the Constitutional Court within three days, said Sumarno, who goes by one name.

“I am ready to take unpopular actions if it is for the interest of the people,” Widodo said before the briefing started. “After the inauguration I will spend more time outside than in my office. All promises made during the campaign should be delivered by hard work and at high speed.”

Widodo must govern a metropolis that has no mass transit system and lags behind other regional capitals in quality of life. Jakarta ranked 181 out of 221 cities for personal safety in a survey conducted last year by the advisory company Mercer that ranked internal stability, crime levels and law enforcement effectiveness. The city ranked 140 in overall quality of life, below Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has led the country since 2004, has pledged to build more roads, ports and airports to achieve average economic expansion of 6.6 percent by the end of 2014. In July, the central bank lowered its growth forecast for this year to between 6.1 percent and 6.5 percent, from a previous estimate of as much as 6.7 percent.

The contest pitted an outsider with a Christian running mate in a Muslim-majority city against an incumbent with support from Golkar, the party that former dictator Suharto used to stay in power for three decades. Widodo, mayor of Solo in Central Java, received backing from opposition parties led by former Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri and former vice-presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

Widodo and Bowo both pledged to improve the mass transit system, which has been delayed since studies were first conducted in the 1980s. Traffic gets so bad that motorists pay bystanders to join them in car-pool lanes during rush hour.

The drivers prefer younger children, especially female drivers, Sumardin, a 12-year-old boy who earns about 150,000 rupiah (US$15.70) per day riding in cars, said on a recent morning as he waited for work. “They are scared we will get in the car and try to rob them, so small children get more customers.”

PT Mass Rapid Transit Jakarta, a company owned by the city, plans to award the first construction contract next month for a US$1.8 billion project transit system with more than 110km of rails, spokesman Manpalagupta Sitorus said in an e-mailed response to questions on Sept. 14. Traffic congestion leads to economic losses of about 12.8 trillion rupiah a year, according to its Web site.

A proper transportation system may make Jakarta more attractive to investors, according to Tai Hui, head of regional research at Standard Chartered in Singapore.

“No one wants to hang around Jakarta,” he said. “The culture is there, the people are nice, but the infrastructure, the traffic, is just a nightmare. A public transportation system is long overdue,” he added.

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