TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - After his first hundred days as Jakarta governor, it really feels as if Anies Baswedan wants to become the antithesis of his predecessor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. He has changed the function of thoroughfares to provide places for traders using carts known as kaki lima at Tanah Abang Market, and has invited the becak (pedicab) to return to the streets of the capital. Basuki’s reclamation policy has been completely abandoned.
Unfortunately, there is the impression that all this has been done in haste. For example, Anies Baswedan and his deputy, Sandiaga Uno, say their becak policy is fulfilling a campaign promise, while claiming that a previous governor, Joko Widodo, also made a similar political contract. The same is true for the cancellation of evictions and the clearing of slums in North Jakarta. It is not surprising that the public suspects that all these policies are aimed at image-improving for political interests.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with Anies wanting to develop Jakarta using an approach that is more accommodating to the interests of lower-income people. Poverty in Jakarta is a chronic and unsolved problem. According to the Central Statistics Agency, as of March 2017, 3.77 percent of Jakartans were classified as poor, a small rise compared to the previous year. This is equal to around 390,000 people.
The lower to middle-income groups were indeed the basis of Anies’ constituents. Of the 58 percent of Jakartans who voted for him in last year’s election, 52 percent were from the low-income group, while 65 percent were only educated up to high school level or lower. Most people with a bachelor’s degree or higher voted for Basuki. So it may seem logical if he wants to prioritize the interests of his voters, as do many politicians after winning elections.
The problem is that Anies’ new policies are often at odds with existing regulations. For example, the rezoning of markets on thoroughfares is against two bylaws, while the reorganization of the public transport system is not included in the Jakarta Medium-Term Development Plan. These kinds of policies have the potential to create problems. It is not only a question of budget allocation but also of coordination between institutions on the ground.
Also worrying are the reports that Anies Baswedan prefers to discuss his policies with special consultants on his support team. He seems to not involve the regional working parties, who have to implement his policies, nor the Jakarta City Council as a partner in drawing up policies. This could be a major blunder.
Apart from this, Anies should improve the way information gets disseminated to the public. By doing this, statements or policy plans that he releases to the media would not simply cause a commotion.
While overcoming poverty as a priority, Anies must not forget that Jakarta has long faced acute problems of congestion and flooding. He must ensure that these two problems are also addressed with clear and measured steps, so all Jakartans feel the benefits of his leadership.
Anies is free to build public sympathy through various efforts to improve social justice, as long as the policies have a real impact on the people. Anies’ way of populist politics should not be just an empty talk.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine