Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan: I Come with a Mandate

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  • Governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, during harvest paddy in Cakung, Jakarta, Jan. 23, 2018. TEMPO/Ilham Fikri

    Governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, during harvest paddy in Cakung, Jakarta, Jan. 23, 2018. TEMPO/Ilham Fikri

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - DURING the 120 days he has led the capital city, Jakarta Governor Anies Rasyid Baswedan has spawned a series of policies considered to be controversial. Some originated with his campaign promises, such as prohibiting the high-class prostitution at Hotel Alexis, bringing back the becak (pedicabs), and stopping reclamation. Some are also responsive, such as his closure of a street in Tanah Abang to allow it to be used as a street market for vendors.

    Anies, 48, considers all the debate following his policy decisions to be quite natural. He cites the example of his reorganization of Tanah Abang, which sparked protests by urban public transport minivan drivers. The former Paramadina University rector says he is establishing a new balance between transportation and trade interests there. "Of course some will have to move. Some are happy about that, and others are not," he said.

    His policies, he says, are intended to help improve the lives of the lower class strata. As a former Minister of Education and Culture from 2014 to 2016, he rejects the assertion that his siding with any group is connected with a future political contest, as he is being mentioned as a prospective candidate for the next presidential and vice-presidential election in 2019. "The tendency these days is for political perceptions to be assumed the number one priority, taking precedence over technocratic ones," he commented.

    Last Friday, two days after floods inundated the capital, Anies met Tempo reporters Anton Septian, Wayan Agus Purnomo, Raymundus Rikang and Angelina Anjar Sawitri at City Hall in Central Jakarta. Following the interview, Anies invited Tempo to tour his offices and showed them his predecessor’s chair. He has never sat in it as he does not like its design.

    Why did you legalize becaks in particular areas?

    Jakarta must be a place for everyone, not just for some. That is why the governor has an obligation to have fair regulations. The fact is, in many disadvantaged kampungs, becaks are still operating even though our local regulations forbid them. That means there is a need for them. So this must be addressed. Never mind that there will be lots of debate about it. This policy is not intended to return becaks everywhere in Jakarta, but instead it is to manage those still here. What is more, there is no law anywhere else prohibiting becaks. Jakarta is the only province prohibiting them.

    How can you organize this?

    It’s simple. One, becaks may only operate in places where the residents agree they do need becaks. Two, they must all be registered, both the becak and its driver. Three, clear routes must be established, so everyone knows where they can operate.

    To legalize becaks, you will have to revise the local regulations as well as negotiate with the Regional City Council, won’t you?

    That shouldn’t be a problem, should it?

    Have you already begun this process?

    Not yet. Actually, I want to apply this policy slowly. But, because there is so much fuss over it now, I am thankful for it. So we can discuss it all now.

    What was your objective in closing Jalan Jatibaru Raya outside Tanah Abang Station?

    I want to establish a new balance there. Two activities are centered around there, namely transportation and trading. From our data, around 178,000 people go in and out of Tanah Abang Station every day. Some head to the market there, while others go elsewhere. However, everything comes to a dead stop outside the exit. Public minivans standby, as do the ojek motorcycle taxis based there, plus all the traffic passing through, as well as the street vendors set up on the sidewalks. I am trying to untangle all that.

    Is this policy now final?

    I do not want to say this is a final solution because it all depends on behavior. It will be monitored and suitable adjustments will then be made. I view this as a transitional solution as later a transit-oriented development (TOD) project will be built there, so both transportation and trading will be housed within a large, separated complex.

    Will the Jalan Jatibaru sidewalk vendors be relocated to the TOD?

    That is an issue to be resolved later. But some people differentiate sidewalk vendors from the usual traders. Sidewalk vendors target impulsive buyers, not those whose purchases are planned. Those whose purchases are planned or are distributors will patronize shops. I take all those sorts of things into account.

    How long will the Tanah Abang transition period be?

    It is dynamic. I look at the actual conditions in the field, not just from applying theories. Relocating people is not like moving chairs. There are behaviors, habits, and cycles. But I do need to underline that this traffic engineering is nothing new. Car-free days are also traffic engineering, so how come no one ever says that is a violation?

    What about the minivan drivers who consider the closure of streets in Tanah Abang reduces their incomes?

    They are not actually suffering, but they do still react. That is what happens until a new balance is found. Again, these public transportation drivers only created a fuss a hundred days after Anies and Sandi began work. Before that, they were quite happy.

    Maybe they only recently felt the effects of this new development.

    The effects on public vehicles should have been felt the same day the changes took effect. If today a minivan has no passengers, the driver will then, of course, know about it. I will accommodate everyone’s aspirations while I look at the true situation in the field.

    Do you feel this is motivated by certain political interests?

    That may be your conclusion (laughing).

    Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine