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Jakarta, Indonesia © Holgs

Jakarta Welcomes a New Governor

The Indonesian capital’s new governor has got some work to do.

In Indonesia, the election of Jakarta’s governor took place smoothly and peacefully this week. Anies Baswedan, former minister of education and culture, defeated the incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is known colloquially as Ahok. In a vote that saw mass polarization among Indonesians, the result must be accepted by everyone, including both candidates and parties and the people of Jakarta.

This year, the gubernatorial election saw deep divisions among the capital’s people — as well as Indonesians in general — just as it was during the presidential election three years ago. The battles over blasphemy among voters on social media were so prevalent, so the incoming governor faces a tough time uniting the electorate.

The primary challenge for Anies, who will be inaugurated in October, is to maintain the status of Jakarta as a regional barometer with diversity and tolerance. This needs to be emphasized because, in the course of winning support, Anies approached different groups including those that are often seen as intolerant, such as the Islamic Defenders Front. We certainly do not expect vigilante actions in the name of religion to flourish in Jakarta, such as the closure of places of worship.

Another important task for Anies is to control the paralyzing bureaucracy of Jakarta’s government. Undeniably, Anies’ track record is lacking in the realm of bureaucracy, even though he was once the minister of education and culture. A number of changes have been made by Ahok since replacing Joko Widodo as governor in 2014, such as the auction of office, granting large allowances to officials and the crackdown on corruption. This should be continued by Anies, although it is not an easy job.

The incoming governor must be able to continue the pace of development that has been seen under the current government. With a local budget of 70 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($5.2 billion) per year, Ahok managed to improve road safety standards, build parks in dense neighborhoods and ensure that poor people had access to health care and education services.

An equally important task is to follow through on promises made during the election campaign, such as homes with a 0% down payment for the poor or a refusal of reclamation in the northern waterways of Jakarta, which is already halfway in process. Implementing a policy such as cheap houses in the Indonesian capital is not an easy matter because of high land prices and limited land availability.

The anti-reclamation policy of the incoming governor will likely clash with the interests of entrepreneurs who have already issued trillions in capital. It would certainly not be wise if Anies immediately broke the contract just like that. Therefore, the new governor of Jakarta should seek a win-win solution in this reclamation business, through which entrepreneurs and fishermen would not be harmed and the environment can be saved.

Indeed, the people of Jakarta will watch in wait for Anies to put his words into actions and get to work.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Holgs