World

Indonesia's Joko sworn in, vows to cut red tape

Members of Indonesian President's Cabinet, to be named today, being closely watched

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo was sworn in yesterday for a second five-year term to lead the world's third biggest democracy, after an election dominated by economic issues and also the growing influence of conservative Islam.

Mr Joko, 58, has pledged to cut red tape and keep building infrastructure to underpin growth in South-east Asia's largest economy. He also made improving education a top priority to encourage investment and create jobs for a youthful population of 260 million people.

"This will be a big problem if we fail to create enough job opportunities," Mr Joko told Indonesia's Parliament after his inauguration, where he cited his dream of Indonesia becoming one of the world's top five economies by 2045 with a gross domestic product worth US$7 trillion (S$9.5 trillion).

Mr Joko, who is also known as Jokowi, said he would push two Bills to replace laws that have hampered job creation, as well as warning that he could sack underperforming civil servants.

He said he would name his Cabinet today.

There was tight security at Parliament for his swearing-in alongside his vice-president, Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin.

Leaders from 17 countries were present for the swearing-in.

Among them were Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Dignitaries from other Asean countries were also present, as were representatives from further afield. These included Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan and US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

More than 30,000 security personnel were deployed following recent student demonstrations and after the country's security minister was stabbed by a suspected Islamist militant earlier this month.

"The President wants to improve the investment environment but is likely to face implementation woes when planned reforms are confronted by the interests of power brokers in his coalition," Mr Achmad Sukarsono, a political analyst at Control Risks consultancy, said in a note.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Last month, Indonesia saw the biggest student demonstrations since Suharto stepped down in 1998 amid anger over Bills that Parliament had tried to push through that critics say threaten democracy, intrude into privacy and hurt the fight against graft.

Still, so far Mr Joko's popularity appears to be holding up.

A survey published last week by Indonesia's biggest newspaper Kompas showed his approval rating dipping only slightly to 58.8 per cent.

In April's election, Mr Joko defeated former general Prabowo Subianto by a double-digit margin, but the poll revealed a split with more moderate Muslims and minorities backing Mr Joko and conservative Muslim regions backing his rival.

The make-up of Mr Joko's Cabinet is being closely watched to see the proportion of technocrats versus party affiliated posts, and there has been speculation that Mr Prabowo or other members of the opposition could join the Cabinet.

There are expected to be 34 ministers in the Cabinet, and Mr Widodo said around 16 would come from political parties. - REUTERS

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