JAKARTA - For the first time in history, Indonesia has a president who was directly elected by the people. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla, or more popularly known as SBY and JK, will have taken oath this morning, as the country's new president and vice president. Hopes are high that the pair can make a difference and bring about a better future.
Sutiyoso, Jakarta Governor
I hope the new government can understand all the problems relating to the implementation of the Autonomy Law, which is meant to give more leeway to provincial heads to build their own regions. It is the provincial heads who know best how to handle their regions.
Unfortunately, what has happened in the previous government through its ministries is that many new government regulations have been issued that are against the spirit of regional autonomy. This should not happen under the new government.
Arief Rachman, is an education expert and also the executive chairman of the Indonesian National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):
There are four things that the next government must focus in terms of education. Firstly, it must have the integrity and be consistent in its goal to improve the country's education. So far, the government only focuses on intelligence. It must also focus more on a child's personality.
Secondly, the next government should improve the welfare and standing of teachers since they are at the grassroots of the education system. Then, the government should provide education for all in terms of rights and opportunities. Currently, the trend shows that rich children get excellent facilities, while poor children get simple facilities or none at all.
Last but not least, the next government should introduce a nationalist syllabus so children become proud of being Indonesians. Looking at some of SBY's candidates for the education posts, I suppose these issues could be resolved. But please keep in mind that the leaders cannot do it alone. They need to be supported by a firm rule of law. Otherwise they can do nothing.
Thomas Darmawan, the executive director of the Indonesian Food and Beverages Association (GAPMMI):
So far, I support SBY's choices, particularly in selecting economic ministers for his Cabinet. Despite the controversies behind the names of some candidates, I believe we must focus on their future work. After all, the ministers will be closely monitored by numerous institutions, including the President and Vice President themselves. In terms of policy making, I am not worried. SBY now has a PhD in agriculture economy and Kalla is a businessman, they know what to expect from their ministers.
Furthermore, an immediate task for the new government is how to further lower the interest rates, thus making a more conducive climate for small businesses. It is also important that the government cut illegal fees and reduce all the local regulatory fees, which have caused a high-cost economy. I hope the new government will not lose valuable time due to difficulties in cooperating with the legislators.
Hendardi, founder of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI):
There is nothing special about SBY's record as a minister in the previous two administrations of outgoing President Megawati Soekarnoputri and former president Abdurrahman Wahid. Therefore we cannot expect him to deliver significant changes in a short period, in this case, bringing to justice past human rights violators and big-time corruptors.
However, Susilo's unprecedented victory in the elections with a clear mandate from the people will serve as an impetus for him to bring lawbreakers to justice. Therefore, a clean Attorney General will play an indispensable role. SBY might have the initiatives but their implementation will be in the hands of the Attorney General.
Seto Mulyadi, is a child psychologist and the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA):
What the next government should do is very simple. In line with the children's rights, it should provide free education for children, especially for those from poor families.
The next government must also focus on implementing the current curriculum based on competency as it is very suitable for children. The curriculum helps children learn and grow their interests in line with their talents.
Will the next government be successful in implementing these changes? It depends whether it has a big enough heart to listen to experts' and especially children's voices.
Ratna Sarumpaet, the Jakarta Arts Council chairwoman:
I hope people will not add to the burdens on Susilo and Kalla for they have a myriad of problems to address. People's expectations are just an additional burden for them. We still need to have hope and expectations though, because what is the point of living if we lose hope in life?
What is important for me is that people realize that they are part of the solution and they must be active too, unlike in past governments where we just sat still and let the government take us wherever it wanted. But now Susilo's task is to fix the old systems so he can run things better and enable people to participate in his administration.
If he puts top people or experts in their field to work within the old, corrupt system, we can expect the old style of governance. If SBY really wants to deconstruct the system, I believe there will be layoffs in one or two ministries, as was done under former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, but if that is for the best, why not?
I guess the military-civilian split is irrelevant now since Susilo must take the nation's helm as a statesman. But the toughest job awaits him, as he finds out what is rotten and what should be preserved within the Indonesian Military (TNI).
Kartono Mohamad, a general medical doctor:
The government has been looking at health issues from the curative, instead of a preventive, point of view. Health has been regarded as a cost rather than an investment.
Thus, what the next government must do is to focus more on preventive programs; raising the people's awareness in the benefits of living healthy lives. Preventive programs require less cost and yet can reach a bigger audience.
The government must hold a national campaign on healthy living to provide the public with information. I don't know whether the next government will institute these programs, as it only says that it will make health services available for the poor. This means it is still focusing on curative measures. I haven't seen any health policies that focus on preventive programs.
Saldi Isra is a lecturer at the Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra. He received the 2004 Bung Hatta Anticorruption award:
Susilo has talked about corruption eradication during his campaign and it won him the people's support. But, what matters is that he can put his words into action. His commitment to eradicate corruption will first be tested on who he appoints as the Attorney General and the National Police chief. They must not only be capable and clean but also have the utmost courage to bring corrupt officials to justice.
Another drawback for Susilo is that he comes from the Indonesian Military, which is considered one of the most corrupt state institutions. Will he be able to deal with the psychological constraints he may have in unraveling corruption in that institution?
Binsar Gultom, a judge at the Central Jakarta District Court's human rights tribunal and at the Medan District Court in North Sumatra:
As a judge, I think it is most important for SBY to uphold law supremacy. He must push the police and the prosecutors to always improve their efforts in upholding the country's laws and coordinate them with efforts of court judges. I hope SBY will also give proper credit to judges who, through their verdicts, have shown their merit in reforming the country's laws for the better.
Judges who handle important or high profile cases must be given adequate support and protection -- as there are dangerous aspects in certain 'sensitive cases' -- so that they can carry out their duty of serving the public by meting out justice.
I also hope SBY will pay more attention to improving the judges' salary and benefits. It is important so the judges do not easily get tempted to take part in courthouse collusion. If we get higher salaries and judges are still involved in backroom deals, then SBY must insist that the Supreme Court take stern actions against them.
I think SBY is able to deliver the expectations, considering how serious he is in trying to keep his word. Take the example of how SBY has personally screened and selected his ministers, which shows that he wants his government to be as professional as possible.
Bajoe Narbito, President of state cellular telecommunications company PT Telkomsel:
I hope the new government will pay more attention to the telecommunication industry as it is an important factor to help the economy grow. The government must at least increase the penetration rate of telephone access, both fixed-lines and cellular, to an average level of 25 percent to 30 percent in the next few years so it is able to compete with surrounding countries.
To do that, the new government must ease off regulations for phone operators to open competition and reduce production costs to allow us to cater to more people as the price becomes more affordable for end-users. Access to information is really essential because it is one of the factors that helps improve our quality of human resources.
Overall, the first issue the government must address is how to reduce the unemployment rate to make the country more stable. It can be done by opening and encouraging investment, which I'm sure will arrive sooner if the security conditions are guaranteed.
Putty Armein, a national bowler who won the Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) tour early this month in Jakarta:
I believe Pak SBY will be able to improve sports development in the country. I have heard he will revive the State Minister of Sports Office. If his plan materializes, he is on the right track to develop sport. I also hope Pak SBY will initiate a scheme that provides life assurance for retiring athletes who have already proven their dedication in national sports.
The assurance, be it permanent jobs or financial insurance, is necessary for athletes facing retirement. This form of appreciation should be addressed by the government.
Gufron, a public minivan driver on the Tanah Abang-Kebayoran Lama route:
Frankly, I voted for SBY in the Sept. 20 presidential election because I believe that Indonesia, with its diversity, needs a military figure as a leader. We need a tough president so that he can handle security problems, which has been a threat in recent years.
I am a victim of the economic crisis that hit the country in mid-1997. I lost my job as an employee at a construction firm in 2000 after it laid off nearly half of its employees. Since then I have been working as a driver.
I see that SBY is a tough figure. He also has a good education. Therefore, I believe he will be able to handle security problems that have improved since the turmoil of when former President Soeharto stepped down (in May 1998).
Madhur Shorey, an expatriate from India who works in the advertising and communications sector. He has been living in Jakarta for the past seven years:
There are three major problems that SBY has to counter. First is security. He must punish the bombers instead of letting them have coffee and tea with the police. Second is bringing economic stability and third is making sure that foreign investment comes in. Unless Indonesia is safe and secure, no money will come in.
Of course, he will have to deal with KKN (the Indonesian acronym for corruption, collusion and nepotism). So far, what he's been saying is all the right things and he's going in the right direction. He is pretty intelligent, he was educated in the United States and he projects overall confidence.
It's good that he will also bring experienced professionals, including several economists, into his Cabinet. He seems pretty okay, but we'll see his actions in the future.
Handaka Santosa, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Retailers (Aprindo):
Overall, we expect to see more economic progress. The new government can adopt good practices that neighboring countries have successfully implemented such as a tax refund for foreign shoppers.
It is a simple action but it would have a great multiplier affect as it will encourage tourists to shop more. Currently, retail sales in neighboring countries are higher than us. Such a measure will result in higher consumption and eventually boost the economy.
However, we also expect the new government to simplify the process of acquiring (business) licenses and review regulations made by regional administrations. SBY seems to have the capability to do his job. Just look at how he is establishing his Cabinet. Instead of accepting recommendations from people surrounding him, he has opted to interview the candidates one by one.
He surely wants to avoid future conflicts due to principal differences between him and his ministers. We hope he can maintain healthy communication with his aides and also with others, including the business community.
Sunarsih, a fruit vendor at Palmerah Market in Central Jakarta:
I hope the prices of staple food will decline, or at least be stable, after Pak SBY becomes our new president. I believe it is the hope of all low-income people, who have been greatly affected by the economic crisis.
I am optimistic that SBY will be able to meet the demands of common people. As an indication, when he was announced as the election winner, there was no price hike. The price of basic needs and imported fruit remained stable at that time.
The situation was different when Ibu Megawati (Soekarnoputri) was elected as the president. I voted for Megawati on Sept. 20. But I am happy that the prices are now stable.
Nugroho Nurdikiawan, an employee of a Jakarta-based non-governmental organization that is concerned with the environment:
I think SBY must start with law enforcement. If he can accomplish this, we can feel positive impacts everywhere. The move is significant to overall elements in the country. And I think he should focus on this.
Maybe my hopes are too high, but there will be progress once he is the president. Why? Because he has been professional in all that he does, even before actually being installed as the president. He already has held discussions and dialogs with minister candidates.
Yvonne, is an expatriate in her 40s and has lived in the capital for several years with her three Indonesian children:
I hope SBY will deal with corruption, that's the main thing. I also hope it's a good transition of power. On the city level, we need to do something about traffic congestion -- it's a nightmare. Also, dealing with poverty, such as finding proper homes for the poor and creating jobs for them. That's another big task.
I think if he picks the right people, who can do the job properly and who are not corrupt, then he can get things done! As a longtime foreign resident with Indonesian children, I hope he will change the regulations preventing foreigners from owning property and get rid of that bizarre fiskal (departure tax).
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