10/21/2016, 19.21
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Economy, infrastructure, and human rights dominate Widodo’s first two years in office

by Mathias Hariyadi

Sworn in on 20 October 2014, Indonesia’s president has been praised for his economic policy, tax amnesty, and infrastructure development in remote areas. However, he has been criticised for human rights violations, capital punishment, and castration of paedophiles.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Infrastructure development in rural and remote areas of the country, a new impetus to the economy and investments, and crackdown on tax evasion are the highlights of the first two years of Indonesian President Joko Widodo who took office on 20 October 2014.

Yesterday, Mr Widodo marked the anniversary on Miangas, part of the Talaud Islands, only 48 nautical miles from the Philippines, where he inaugurated the island’s first airport, hitherto reachable only by sea.

With the new airstrip, the president said, the state wants to reinforce its presence in the most remote parts of Indonesia. “We are committed,” the president added, "to show our neighbour (Philippines) that we also take care of our territory near other countries."

Two days ago Widodo inaugurated another airport in Yahukimo, Papua province, after decades of isolation due to its geographic features.

Most observers acknowledge that the president has given new impetus to the economy. A tax amnesty has favoured the return of capital hosted in tax shelters and allowed the government to recoup lost revenues.

Analysts also praise the government’s steps to curb corruption and the misuse of public funds, which are the scourge of Indonesia’s bureaucracy.

With a GDP of US$ 861 billion, the South-East Asian nation has one of the most vibrant economies in the world. Although growth slowed last year, the forecast for 2016 is 5.2 per cent.

Widodo’s economic policy is praised even by the super-rich, starting with Mochtar Riady, founder and chairman of the Lippo Group, a real estate giant.

According to the 87-years-old tycoon, the two years of the Widodo led to "revolutionary" reforms that will turn Indonesia into be a major economic power.

Having known every president since 1945 (when the country proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands), the businessman believes that Widodo’s infrastructure development will lead to "a new era in Indonesia".

“I strongly believe that within the next five years, the so-called ‘Indonesian factor’ will dominate the world’s economy and nothing will be done without involving Indonesia,” Riady said.

However, human rights groups have criticised the president, accusing his administration of complicity in several crimes.

The Commission of the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) noted that Widodo has appointed to his cabinet some ministers known for human rights violations.

Rights advocates also point to Indonesia’s continued reliance on the death penalty, and its new law to use chemical castration and the death penalty against paedophiles.

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