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Asia Minute: Indonesia’s Leader’s Uneven First Year in Power

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Next Tuesday, Indonesia’s president will mark one year in office. Joko Widodo came to power with promises of reform and change.  As part of our series “Following Up,” HPR’s Bill Dorman brings us up to date in today’s Asia Minute.

Joko Widodo’s broad populist appeal helped him win a close election against a retired general a year ago.  A former furniture salesman from humble beginnings, his route to the presidency came by way of the governorship of Jakarta—basically he was the mayor of Indonesia’s largest city.  It was there he gained a reputation for taming bureaucracy and leading reforms.  After nearly a year in office, the act has proven tough to duplicate on a national level.  He’s faced strong political opposition in parliament, early push-back on many of his reform plans, and economic challenges coming in part from China’s economic slowdown.

In recent weeks, his government has come under growing criticism from neighboring countries for a slow response to illegal fires that have led to a haze blanketing areas from Singapore through Malaysia and up to Thailand.  Despite the setbacks, there has been some recent progress on Widodo’s reform goals.  This week, his government announced a third series of economic reforms—including a cut in energy prices for businesses.  The markets liked the news—Indonesia’s main stock index and its currency both rallied more than six-percent by mid-week.  The drive for international investment continues later this month…when Widodo makes his first trip to the United States as president.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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