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Jakarta governor urged to do more to tackle problems

Publication Date : 24-01-2013


When the flood waters rose last week, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo rolled up his trousers and waded in to inspect locations across the city.

Residents clapped and one offered a wooden cart to transport him around the flooded Hotel Indonesia roundabout in downtown Jakarta.

It was vintage Jokowi, as the governor is affectionately known. The former Solo mayor, who was ranked third-best mayor in a global poll, is known for making unannounced spot checks.

But as he marks his 100th day in office, public figures and analysts are demanding more. While they feel he is sincere, it would be nice to see some real steps to fix the capital's persistent problems such as traffic jams and seasonal floods, they said.

"We can't expect him to solve chronic issues immediately, but by now we would like to see plans laid out," Professor Iberamsjah of the University of Indonesia told The Straits Times. "There has to be some clear direction and not reaction to things."

Former Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla agreed. He said: "He shows enthusiasm but we need to see some concrete plans from him."

Speaking to The Straits Times shortly after his election last September, Joko said his top priority was solving Jakarta's notorious jams and floods. But he could not give clear plans when pressed.

In recent weeks, he has tried moving some projects, such as issuing an ambitious plan to have 450 more Transjakarta public buses by this year.

But he has flip-flopped and critics are also unimpressed with his idea of introducing odd- and even-numbered car plates on certain days to cut traffic.

He also recently approved the 41 trillion rupiah (US$4.24 billion) construction of six major toll roads, after initially saying they would only encourage more cars on the roads and worsen traffic jams. He did issue conditions - that the roads would be passable to public buses, and there would be fewer toll gates to keep traffic flowing.

But veteran transport analyst Darmaningtyas, at the Institute of Transport Studies, is not convinced. He said: "Studies have shown that toll roads in Jakarta have never been free of jams. The focus should be on improving public transport, which was what Pak Jokowi pledged at the start."

To his credit, Joko has approved a financing scheme to get the estimated 110 trillion rupiah rail project going - an idea first mooted in the 1990s. Construction on the first phase is expected to begin this year, with the first line targeted to be operational by 2016.

Others have said that he takes too long to decide and bases most decisions on public feedback rather than on expert evaluations.

Hard-hitting commentaries on his performance have appeared in newspapers.

Writing in The Jakarta Post earlier this month, the daily's deputy editor Ary Hermawan said Joko had once asked journalists if the city centre had been flooded before - and seemed surprised on discovering that the flood culvert underneath the area was not big enough.

"Given that it's been more than three months since the mayor of Surakarta took over the top executive job in the capital city, it is hard to understand why Jokowi still acts as if he is a confused migrant from a small village in Central Java who just arrived by bus at a dirty and thug-controlled Jakarta bus terminal," he wrote.


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