World Economy

Indonesians Praise Jokowi Economic Reforms

Indonesians Praise Jokowi Economic ReformsIndonesians Praise Jokowi Economic Reforms

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo has won praise for bold economic reforms at the start of his term.

Widodo, who will mark 100 days in power on Tuesday, was elected president in July following a meteoric rise from a childhood in a riverbank slum, AFP reported.

Known as Jokowi, the former furniture exporter won over the nation with his hands-on approach and humble background, and is the first Indonesian leader from outside the political and military elites.

The 53-year-old – who rose to national prominence as Jakarta governor – is the first Indonesian president since the 1998 downfall of Suharto without deep roots in the dictator’s three-decade rule.

From making unpopular fuel subsidy cuts in the country of 250 million people, to responding to last month’s AirAsia crash, Widodo has had to hit the ground running, and most analysts say he has done well.

At the top of his to-do list was reducing fuel subsidies, which in the past gobbled up a vast chunk of the state budget and urgently needed to be cut to free up funds to boost Southeast Asia’s top economy, which is currently growing at a five-year low.

Widodo wasted little time – less than a month after taking office, he announced a more than 30 percent increase in petrol and diesel prices, and last month scrapped subsidies on petrol entirely.

Cutting the subsidies “has allowed the government the cash to undertake their projects, especially on the infrastructure front,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist from Singapore-based OCBC Bank.

Investors have long complained about Indonesia’s threadbare infrastructure, from potholed roads to ageing ports.