In Jakarta, tension between political parties is at an all time high, as the 2017 gubernatorial election is just around the corner. The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the National Awakening Party, and the Democratic Party seem to all agree that there is a better-qualified candidate to run the capital than incumbent governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama.
For those who don’t know, Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno is one of Indonesia’s richest and most famous businessmen, perhaps best-known as a partner at newly listed Saratoga Investama Sedaya. With an estimated net worth of US$795 million, he is also a member of Gerindra. Last July, the party gave him the nod to run for Jakarta’s top office. Although Uno was only declared a gubernatorial candidate less than three months ago, his popularity suggests he can be a real contender with Ahok come February. Uno took some time to chat with Indonesia Expat and discuss what’s in store for him as a political candidate.
“As the capital of Indonesia, indeed Jakarta still has issues that need urgent attention,” says Uno. “I agree that to organize this big city is a heavy-duty call.”
From Uno’s perspective, the first problem that needs to be addressed is the price stability of basic commodities. Using investor lingo, these can include but are not limited to ordinary farm produce that we buy each day like corn, rice and sugar. If the government wants to keep the prices of staple goods affordable, it needs to increase production efficiency while simplifying the distribution processes, explains Uno. Officials should also monitor a delivery programme of subsidies to make sure targets are met, he adds.
The second major problem Jakarta faces, according to Uno, is the issue of job creation and professional development. In other words, the right jobs need to be made in the capitalnd locals need to be trained for them. Uno claims this can be done in several ways. The first is skills training for retrenched workers, and building “entrepreneur centres” in every district. Next, Uno says the government can map out job deficits to increase the number of workers available, then use the web to provide information to them.
The candidate also believes Jakarta’s young people should not be left behind. Uno tells Indonesia Expat the local government should develop apprenticeship programmes for young workers, and stimulate a collective entrepreneurial spirit. At the end of the day, this means simplifying business licence processes and reforming bureaucracy. According to the millionaire, the element which makes this issue urgent is that the number of families living below the poverty line in the city is on the rise. He says, “Recently, the Central Bureau of Statistics of DKI Jakarta released data on poverty. The number of poor people in Jakarta now stands at 15,630, which means the poverty rate has increased 0.14 points from the previous time.”
It’s important to note that in the Special Capital Region of Jakarta alone there are more than 9.6 million residents. If what Uno says is true about the number of impoverished people — ergo if the statistics bureau is to be trusted — that means only 0.16 percent of the local population can be classified as “poor.” If you take a look outside in the city, you can decide for yourself if that’s a legit number.
Uno adds, “There’s no clear policy from the […] government for creating jobs, a favourable economic situation, and [maintaining good relations] with the businessmen, particularly small traders, medium-sized traders and businessmen who have been the lifeblood of this economy.”
As chairman of Indonesia’s Market Trader Association, the candidate recently visited Ahok to discuss price volatility on staple commodities. In what turned out to be a lightning-fast meeting, the two men reportedly saw eye-to-eye. Ahok supposedly laid out his plan for keeping prices down, while Uno told Viva, “Thank God, there is good integration and the prices will not surge in the future.” The meeting took place on August 12, and the more believable scenario is that the two men were simply sizing each other up. It’s unlikely that they were able to sort out the city’s economic woes in 25 minutes.
With a background in business, Uno says the main reason behind fluctuating commodity prices in Jakarta is a tradition of long and complex supply chain processes. Lots of middlemen mean a higher price for the end consumer and a lower profit margin for the supplier.
“As a businessman, I have turned around companies on the verge of bankruptcy and created successful businesses that produced 50,000 jobs for Indonesians,” says Uno.
“If I get elected as Governor of Jakarta from 2017 to 2021, I will create more jobs and economic opportunities for average Jakartans.”
Uno also claims he will focus on crime and public safety. To take preventive measures, the government must increase awareness of moral education and community behaviour from home, says Uno, adding that punishment for criminals must remain strict, while youth and community activities should be ramped up.
Uno did not comment on who his running mate will be, but reports from Sindonews suggest that the two names on his list are Jakarta District Secretary Saefullah and Deputy Governor of Tourism and Culture Sylviana Murni.
“They are competent in public management with good track records in bureaucracy. The appearance of their names must not appear with just nothing. On the strategic side, this decision needs to be reliable to attract voters in the local elections,” says Uno. “They are ideal figures to pair up with me to ensure that the government can be run effectively.”
The media have reported that Uno is also in talks with Boy Sadikin, ex-chairman of the Regional Representative Council, as a potential running mate. Gerindra says it will publicize Uno’s running mate by mid-September, which means the news may have already come out by the time this article is published.
In the coming months, the public will scrutinize Uno and Ahok side by side. Uno says every candidate has a different style and approach. “My approach is to have a ‘gather’ style. We can also call it ‘civilized democracy’,” he explains. “I believe with this approach I can create a bigger impact for Jakartans.”
A large part of how the incumbent governor drums up support is via an organization of volunteers known to the public as ‘Teman Ahok’. Similarly, Uno has his own group of friends and organized supporters known as ‘Sahabat Sandiaga Uno’. The group launched Sandi Uno Digital Volunteer (SOLDIER) to help socialize Uno’s positive activities online.
“SOLDIER was established to promote positive activities through the virtual world on social media. SOLDIER [communicates] to [the] general public the achievement of my vision, mission and programme contributions as a candidate for Governor of Jakarta,” says Uno. “This means a lot to my campaign. It enables people to know my future programmes, as well as the solutions I offer […] It is being used by many people right now, and more importantly, people can know who Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno is as a candidate.”
If Uno does get elected, he claims there are six priorities he will focus on: maintaining price stability on basic commodities, creating more jobs, monitoring the budget, building out better human resources and infrastructure, upping the ante on transparency, accountability and efficiency, and implementing better systems to deal with traffic and flooding.
During Uno’s visit to Ahok’s office last month, he seemed confident about the February election, reportedly saying, “I’m checking out my new office for 2017. It’s very neat and pretty.”