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Strong Economy Helps Indonesian President's Re-Election Bid


With the Indonesian presidential election just days away (July 8) President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono remains the favorite to win. The most recent opinion poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute gives the former general a 63 percent approval rating. One of the keys to President Yudhoyono's success has been his management of the economy. The opposition candidates face a challenge trying to persuade voters to choose their promises over the president's record.

For the past six years, Amin Ridho has worked at the Swiss-owned Nestle Corporation candy factory outside Jakarta.

He says the company pays much higher than minimum wage, which is about $100 a month.

Nestle employs more than 2,500 people in Indonesia and works with more than 30,000 local farmers. The company plans to invest over $100 million in Indonesia to expand its operations.

Peter Vogt, Nestle's director in Indonesia, says one of the factors that make Indonesia a good investment is the stable political climate here.

"We feel that Indonesia, and through also the whole democratization, through the right policies that have been put in place over the last five years by the present government, it really has set the scene for this country to continue growing over the next 10 to 20 years," said Vogt.

Indonesia's economy is expected to grow by about four percent this year. While that is down from the 6.1 percent growth in 2008, it is better than almost all developed economies, and better than most Asian nations.

The sustained growth has helped make Democratic Party candidate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono the favorite to win re-election.

At a Democratic Party rally supporters says President Yudhoyono's record on the economy speaks for itself.

This supporter says the president has already proven that everything is running smoothly.

The other major presidential candidates have been critical of the president's management of the economy.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, whose motto is "faster, better," says the president has been too cautious. Megawati Sukarnoputri criticizes him for favoring foreign investment over domestic development.

She says we first will build an integrated and sovereign food processing base, then we will think about sending it outside for export.

She is hoping this argument will resonate with those Indonesians who are not benefiting from the growing economy, like these produce vendors in a Jakarta market.

This vendor says that everything is expensive and for small businesses, it is hard to live like this.

But political analyst Sunny Tanuwidjaj with the Center for Strategic and International Studies says overall economic conditions have improved under President Yudhoyono and voters know it.

"It's a rare thing to have politicians deliver what they say," said Tanuwidjaj. "So I think under this political atmosphere, proofs, evidence is much more important than words and promises."

The president's supporters hope the strong economy will help him win a clear majority of the 170 million votes cast on July 8 to prevent a run-off election in September.


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