Authors: Katy Cornwell and Titik Anas
The arrival of a new year has brought with it an increased focus on Indonesia’s 2014 legislative and presidential elections. While voters may be disillusioned with established political figures, a strong presidential candidate has yet to emerge. Many voters appear to yearn for an experienced and uncorrupt leader with new and proactive policies, which is why Jakarta’s new governor, Joko Widodo, is being viewed as a potential candidate.
The Constitutional Court has made two major, controversial rulings in recent months: the first concerned the upstream oil and gas regulator BPMigas, the second the international-standard pilot-project schools (Rintisan Sekolah Bertaraf Internasional, RSBIs). The Court ruled both institutions unconstitutional and called for their immediate disbandment.
In 2012, Indonesia’s year-on-year economic growth slowed slightly, to a still healthy 6.2%, owing to continued weak global demand for its exports and a contraction in government expenditure. In contrast, foreign direct investment and portfolio investment were particularly strong, with respective increases of 25% and more than 142%. At 4.3%, inflation for the 2012 calendar year still remains well within the government’s and Bank Indonesia’s expectations. However, inflation expectations are high for 2013, owing to likely reforms to energy subsidies; the expected effect of bad weather on food prices; and increases in minimum wages, which attracted attention in 2012 because of their magnitude and their apparent disparity among regions. Concerns also exist that these rises in minimum wages will hamper Indonesia’s international competitiveness and could discourage investment in labour-intensive industries.
Minimum-wage policy is also controversial because of doubts about its relevance to the genuinely poor sections of society – those in informal employment or with primarily subsistence income, who constitute a large proportion of the population. Indonesia has experienced a steady increase in income inequality in the last decade, indicating that the benefits of strong economic growth have not been shared equally. Potential reasons for this increasing inequality relate to labour-market segmentation amid a growing middle class, weak institutional foundations, and commodity-driven growth.
It appeared in 2012 that Indonesia has also been one of the world’s poorest performers in HIV/AIDS prevention in recent years. While prevalence rates are low, the number of new HIV infections in 2011 was more than four times that of any other South Asian or Southeast Asian country, and the infection rate among the working-age population has risen by more than 25% since 2001. Infection rates among high-risk groups are also alarmingly high compared with those of other Southeast Asian countries. Targeted prevention, treatment and support programs among these groups are paramount.