Heryawan, Dede determined
to fight poverty, improve

West Java governor-elect Ahmad Heryawan on Thursday said he would increase spending on projects to cut poverty and improve education and healthcare in the province.

The West Java chapter of the General Elections Commission (KPUD) on Thursday presented to the provincial legislature an official letter announcing Heryawan and Yusuf Macan Effendi as governor and vice governor of the province for the 2008-2013 term.

The legislature will hold a plenary session to approve the letter, before asking Home Minister Mardiyanto to issue an order authorizing the pair's inauguration, scheduled to be held June 13.

Heryawan said he was prepared to fulfill his campaign promises and would step down if he did not accomplish them within the first three years of his term.

"According to survey results and available facts, especially complaints from women in West Java, the main problem faced by people is the high cost of living. Other problems include unemployment, poverty, education and healthcare, public facilities and infrastructure, and lastly public services," said Heryawan in provincial capital Bandung on Thursday.

Heryawan said the core of the problem in West Java was living standards.

The governor-elect and his running mate Yusuf promised during the campaign to create 1 million jobs by setting aside Rp 200 billion (approximately US$22.2 million) annually that would be managed through small and medium enterprises.

There are currently more than 2 million unemployed people in West Java and around 10.5 million people categorized as poor.

Heryawan promised to earmark Rp 50 billion annually to keep down the prices of basic foods, and Rp 200 billion for the construction of roads and irrigation networks.

"We also intend to allocate annual reserves of Rp 200 billion aimed at stabilizing the prices of fertilizer and rice," he said.

He said he would set aside Rp 200 billion for the education and health sectors, to ensure free healthcare and education was available to all low-income residents, and to raise the living standards of teachers.

Poverty, according to Heryawan, is a major issue along the northern coast of the province, where there have been calls to form a new province.

"They lack attention. If we pay as much attention to them as other West Java residents, they might change their mind about wanting a new province. But if they still feel dissatisfied and adamant about the plan, we should respect it as long as it comes from the majority," said Heryawan.

He acknowledged that he and Yusuf could face trouble getting their programs pushed through considering they won the election with the backing of the Prosperous Justice Party and National Mandate Party, which control just 21 of the 100 seats in the provincial legislature.

"The important thing is for us to work hard to convince everyone that we are working in the interest of all. There might be resistance, but I will use my experience at the Jakarta council to overcome it."

He also dismissed fears he planned to introduce sharia to the province, a rumor generated by the fact the Prosperous Justice Pary is Islam-based.

"Discussions on ideology and religious tolerance are over. What we haven't finished discussing is how to help the people of West Java prosper. We will deal with more universal issues, such as prosperity and harmony, and such issues have nothing to do with faith," he said.

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