Indonesia Elections 2014: Yudhoyono promises boost in social aid

Indonesia Elections 2014: Yudhoyono promises boost in social aid

JAKARTA - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said his Democratic Party would boost social assistance spending to help the poor and raise the wages of teachers, doctors, soldiers, policemen and civil servants if it was given the chance to lead the country again.

These measures will be part of the ruling party's agenda over the next five years, Dr Yudhoyono told over 1,000 senior party members and MPs at an indoor rally in Jakarta yesterday.

It was Dr Yudhoyono's only campaign speech in the capital before voters go to the polls next Wednesday.

A Democrat government will ensure that minimum pay for public servants hits five million rupiah (S$550) in five years, double that at present, he said, in a last-ditch attempt to court voters for a party that has been sliding in the ratings due to recent graft cases but which, as he reminded his audience, was critical to the great strides the country has made in the past decade.

Dr Yudhoyono yesterday spent an hour, using detailed PowerPoint slides, to show how his government had over the past 10 years met the promises it made in 2004 and 2009, from multiplying incomes to quadrupling pay for the lowest rung of civil servants.

And the party hoped to get the chance to build on these achievements in the next five years, he added.

The former four-star general cannot run for president again by law, and it is unclear whether his party can marshal enough support and form a coalition to field a candidate for the July 9 presidential election.

Opinion polls put Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, from the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P) as a clear front runner.

Many rate the Democrats' chance of joining the next government as remote.

A poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting conducted last week and released yesterday found the Democrats would get just 10 per cent of the vote on April 9.

But as the President told a special edition of the Democrat-linked newspaper Jurnal Nasional: "It is true that Jokowi has relatively high electability now. But in the next four months, there could be changes. Politics is fluid and dynamic."

Dr Yudhoyono added that it would be good if Jokowi spelt out his thoughts and solutions to the country's problems.

Yesterday, Dr Yudhoyono said his administration had been "the most aggressive" in fighting corruption in the country's history.

He also outlined, among other things, how his government had reduced poverty; seen the middle class grow from 37 per cent to 57 per cent of the population; cut unemployment from 9.9 per cent to 6.3 per cent; and boosted defence spending by 400 per cent over the past decade.

And 10 years after the Indonesian economy collapsed amid the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Indonesia entered the G-20 group of nations, he added.

He acknowledged there were still problems, like improving religious harmony, and apologised for lapses under his watch.

Alluding to rival parties tapping on this sentiment in a bid to form the new administration, he said: "What kind of change are we looking at? What more when that change is not strategic, not based on management that is credible and accountable."

This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.

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