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Jokowi says successor must adopt his reforms to reach 7% growth

Bloomberg News - September 20, 2023

Bandung, Indonesia – Indonesia's outgoing President Joko Widodo said South-east Asia's largest economy will be able to attain its fastest expansion in three decades under its next leader, who will build on the reforms he is trying to cement.

Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, forecasts a 6 per cent to 7 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 2027 or 2028, as the country reaps the benefits of his policies that include an aggressive infrastructure roll-out and a push for onshore processing of mineral resources.

The top end of the annual forecast would be the fastest pace since 1996, according to compiled data.

"It has to be prepared so that there's continuity," he told Bloomberg Television's Ms Haslinda Amin during an interview near Bandung on Tuesday.

"Each leader shouldn't have (his) own vision – changing the vision and the orientation would put us back at the start," he said, when asked whether his successor would continue his programmes.

Ending a decade of rule in 2024, Mr Widodo, 62, is banking on his enduring popularity to back a presidential contender who will continue his policies and buttress his legacy.

That will enable the former furniture maker, who was once a political outsider, to stay influential for years to come. Mr Widodo himself may even be building his own political dynasty.

His "Golden Indonesia" – a 2019 campaign pledge – will arise from an economic road map that will bring the country's per capita GDP to US$25,000 (S$34,000) by 2045, and create 10 million jobs.

In his final year in office, he is seeking incentives from the United States for its green energy transition, while carefully balancing ties with its most important economic partner: China.

Mr Widodo, who swept to power in 2014 on a promise to lift GDP growth to 7 per cent, has managed to keep domestic expansion steady at around 5 per cent, at a time when the global economy teeters on the edge of a recession.

He said that during his term, the external environment was not favourable, and the local infrastructure was not sufficient, leading him to ramp up the roll-out.

Speaking at the train depot of South-east Asia's first high-speed rail, Mr Widodo touted his infrastructure push: 16 new airports, 18 new ports, 36 dams and over 2,000km of toll roads.

Next in the pipeline is a new capital city in Borneo's jungle that is envisioned to spread development beyond Indonesia's main island of Java, which accounts for more than half of Indonesia's population and almost 60 per cent of Indonesia's GDP.

Mr Widodo's aggressive building spree has stirred criticism of issues such as budget overruns and delays. Construction in the capital city, called Nusantara, is not proceeding as fast as anticipated.

"Infrastructure will create new economic growth centres," he added, stressing that it would not happen immediately but "maybe in the next 10 to 15 years".

"The choice is whether to build now or later. I choose to build now."

His successor must be brave, bold and unafraid of taking risks, according to Mr Widodo.

"We need leaders who have the courage to defend Indonesia's national interests. Leaders who unite Indonesia, who serve the people, who know the macro and the micro, but can also work in detail," he said. He declined to reveal his preferred candidate.

Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan are the top contenders for the post, though the registration for candidacy will open only in October.

The President's youngest son is the latest in the family to reveal political ambitions, seeking to become a mayor in the 2024 election.

Mr Widodo has three children, one of whom is the mayor of Solo. His son-in-law runs Medan – one of Indonesia's largest cities.

Mr Widodo said he wants to return to his home town of Solo and become an environmental activist once he concludes his second and final term. "I want to return to my family. That's the plan, but sometimes plans can change," he said.

The President ended the interview to visit a nearby state-owned arms manufacturer PT Pindad, before heading for lunch with Mr Prabowo, a former rival who is the former son-in-law of dictator Suharto. Mr Widodo and Mr Prabowo are frequently seen together.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/jokowi-says-successor-must-adopt-his-reforms-to-reach-7-growt