View Point: Pebbles in Jokowi’s shoes in 2015

The year 2015 began on a gloomy note for Indonesia following the crash of AirAsia flight QZ8501 in the Karimata Strait. Search and rescue efforts for the 162 passengers and crew of the aircraft, bound for Singapore from Surabaya on the morning of Dec. 28, have been going on for a week.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) to prioritize retrieval of the bodies. Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini stayed with the waiting passengers’ families at the Juanda Airport crisis center to lend them support.

The accident was the country’s worst last year.

In the past decade, the growth of budget airlines has helped connect people and our 13,000 islands. However, the latest accident has raised questions once again over our aviation safety.

Safety remains an issue throughout the country’s transportation system, especially land transportation. National Police data recorded that 26,484 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2013. The figure is lower than three years earlier of 31,234 people.

Although the police run regular campaigns on traffic safety, many road users continue to ignore traffic rules. However, transportation is also about connectivity from one point to another. The government’s plan to build more roads and toll roads is widely welcomed despite calls to use public transportation.

Transportation is just one of many things that the Jokowi administration will have to concentrate on this year.

The government’s decision to cap the fuel subsidies — effective from New Year’s Day — should mean more funds for other sectors, especially health care and education. Increasing fuel prices was a far from popular move, with the public initially protesting but many finally accepting that the fuel subsidies had to be allocated elsewhere for the greater good.

The Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan) program for all citizens — including white-collar workers in the private sector starting this month — seems ideal. However, low participation and compliance in paying premiums will remain two major problems for the BPJS Kesehatan.

In the education sector, the government’s decision to return to the 2006 curriculum starting this month has brought relief to many teachers and parents. They also welcomed the ministry’s decision to end the function of the national exam as the sole determinant of student graduation.

Both decisions were deemed landmarks for the country’s education system. Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Anies Baswedan said the government expected to see better exams this year. He also revealed that eight components were used to qualify the success of the educational system, which included the exams, teachers, learning materials and school infrastructure.

Further work for the Jokowi administration is the fight against corruption. Despite the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) never ending efforts to investigate big graft cases, corruption is still rampant in the country.

The KPK has been criticized for not finishing its investigations into big cases. As KPK chairman Abraham Samad said, one major reason for this is limited human resources. To cope with the challenges, the KPK has revamped its top posts’ job descriptions, namely enforcement, prevention, data and information management and internal monitoring and public complaints.

Another issue that remains a pebble in Jokowi’s shoe is religious tolerance and human rights. Somehow the way the government deals with these ongoing issues has yet to answer the real problems. We want to hear the good news that congregations are allowed to hold regular services in their churches; that Ahmadis can return to their homes; and that acts of violence against civilians by authorities have been stopped.

On top of all these challenges Jokowi still needs to make peace with members of the House of Representatives. Supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in last year’s presidential election, the party, unfortunately, could not easily dominate the House as it faced strong resistance from the Red-and-White Coalition.
Even though the Red and White — spearheaded by the Golkar Party, which supported Jokowi’s rival Prabowo Subianto — is losing supporters, it still has a grip on the House. The United Development Party (PPP) was the first to declare its departure from the coalition following the party’s split into the camps of Suryadharma Ali and former party secretary-general Muhammad “Romy” Romahurmuziy.

Later, it was Golkar’s turn to be rocked by infighting. The country’s oldest political party saw major internal division after a group of the party’s youth members, supporters of former coordinating people’s welfare minister Agung Laksono, stormed Golkar headquarters in West Jakarta and attacked members of the opposing faction. Golkar has known infighting before, but it had never experienced violence and now the party has effectively split in two: one faction led by incumbent chairman Aburizal Bakrie and one by deputy chairman Agung.

Jokowi and the PDI-P-led coalition need to use every means available to control the House so that the government’s programs can be implemented properly and pending bills can be deliberated smoothly.

For all of the shortcomings under Jokowi-Kalla, the world has been impressed by their victory in the presidential election, Jokowi’s speech in Beijing and how the government is handling the AirAsia crash. To improve the economy and governance of the 240 million population is not easy. Just as Jokowi said in his speech after announcing his Cabinet: our option is only to work, work, work

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