200 days in, blunders tarnish Widodo's image

200 days in, blunders tarnish Widodo's image
President Joko Widodo.

JAKARTA - Just 200 days since Indonesian President Joko Widodo took office, his image as an honest, quick-acting reformer is starting to fade.

Calling his administrative team the "Working Cabinet," Widodo has been pushing forward with budget reforms and infrastructure development. But there is a tendency among Indonesians to avoid reporting unpleasant truths to their superiors, even when straight talk is urgently needed. This national characteristic has made progress difficult.

With the 70th anniversary of the country's independence coming this August, how will Indonesia's first "people's president" address the entrenched attitudes and behaviours that form such an obstacle to growth?

Staying (too) positive

"It took previous governments 70 years to build power plants to supply 50 gigawatts of electricity," Widodo said on May 4 in the historic city of Yogyakarta, in central Java. "But even so, our plan (now) is not overly ambitious."

He was announcing the start of a plan to begin construction on new power plants by 2019 with a total generating capacity of 35GW. The venue, the site of a planned wind farm, was perhaps chosen for the fresh image of renewable energy, but its expected capacity of just 0.05GW must have produced mixed feelings for the president.

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