Widodo makes $28bn rural election promise

Indonesia’s president, Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, who is trying to win re-election on April 17, has promised to boost agricultural funding to more than US$28.5 billion over the next five years.

The World Bank has questioned the effectiveness of the Village Funds programme amid concerns about fuelling corruption.

Jokowi faces former general Prabowo Subianto in a repeat of the 2014 contest. Prabowo has criticised the president for alleged financial mismanagement, which he says has left many Indonesians in poverty.

The former soldier has also pledged to transfer 1 billion rupiah (US$71,500) to every Indonesian village if he wins the election, although analysts believe his chances are slim.

Jokowi told supporters in Sentul to the south of Jakarta: “Half of Indonesian people live in villages and there is a higher poverty level there than in cities.

“With better utilisation, the prosperity of the people will be more evenly distributed to remote villages.”

Jakarta’s corruption agency has made hundreds of arrests involving the Village Funds scheme since its launch in 2015.

Indonesia Corruption Watch estimated that there had been 181 corruption cases related to Jokowi’s rural subsidies.

The World Bank reported in 2017 that the scheme had not reduced rural poverty due to constraints that limit the nature of spending. The financial institution did, however, refer to Jokowi’s efforts to improve the programme’s impact.

“I am optimistic that hard work will transform the lives of the Indonesian people,” Jokowi told a rally Bogor near Jakarta. “We will continue to reduce poverty through the creation of employment, economy, stronger purchasing power, comprehensive social security.”
The president has also faced questions about the sincerity of his Islamic belief.

The police say they have arrested three Indonesian women over a video, which has been viewed thousands of times, that claimed Jokowi would ban prayer and make gay marriage legal if re-elected.

There is no evidence for the claims.

Amid prolonged fake-news campaigns, the video showed two women in hijabs saying Jokowi, a practising Muslim, would end the call to prayer, ban head-covering and legalise gay marriage.

Three women were arrested in East Java for spreading misinformation, the police said.

If convicted they could face up to six years in jail for spreading hate speech and violating an electronic information law.


A large proportion of Indonesians live in rural poverty. Picture credit: Wikimedia