Free healthcare, education not essential
Paper Edition | Page: 10
Most Jakarta gubernatorial hopefuls are apparently obsessed with the word “free” in tackling problems related to human development issues in the capital.
“Free education and healthcare are important for the people,” South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin has claimed, promising to make healthcare and education in Jakarta free of charge only one day after he takes office as governor of Jakarta.
“If you don’t believe [that I can make education and healthcare in Jakarta free], then just come to South Sumatra. Education and healthcare there have been free since 2008,” he said recently.
Although Alex’s campaign promises have been met with cynicism from well-educated Jakartans, they actually have translated into higher popularity. A recent survey released by Indo Barometer reveals that Alex’s campaign promises have been a major factor in bolstering his popularity, with 34.8 percent of the respondents acknowledging that they recognize Alex for his programs and strategies to solve the capital’s problems.
Realizing Alex’s success, other candidates have emulated his strategy to put free healthcare and education in the spotlight.
Hendardji Soepandji, an independent candidate, says that free healthcare and education will become his priority if he is elected as governor, promising to open free 24-hour community healthcare centers.
Hidayat, backed by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), has also followed Alex’s footsteps, vowing to make all Jakarta schools, public and private, free of charge.
Apparently trying to show Jakarta citizens that their campaign promises were more than empty talk, both Hendardji and Hidayat provided free medical checkups during their respective campaign activities last week.
Meanwhile, Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says that he will implement free education and healthcare programs in Jakarta by distributing the so-called kartu sehat (health cards) and kartu pintar (smart cards) to citizens. “The two cards have been successful in Surakarta,” he added.
Independent candidate Faisal Basri’s plan to improve education and healthcare services in Jakarta is similar to Jokowi’s. Faisal says that he will optimize the use of the social security insurance system (BPJS) to guarantee that all Jakarta residents could get free healthcare services from all hospitals throughout Jakarta.
The incumbent, Fauzi Bowo, challenges his competitors, boasting that the programs of free healthcare and education have been implemented successfully during his tenure as Jakarta’s leading man.
“Those who claim that healthcare is not free in Jakarta should not claim himself as a [native] Jakartan. He’s just an out-of-towner,” he retorted.
Concerns, however, have surfaced about whether free-of-charge education and healthcare services are really the solution to boost crucial human development indicators in Jakarta. Some observers view such campaign promises as little more than populist statements to increase the candidates’ odds in winning the election.
“Promising to make healthcare services free is only to fool the people,” said Firman Lubis, a professor of community health in the University of Indonesia (UI).
“No matter how much funding [is allocated for healthcare], it will never be enough. What’s more pressing, on the other hand, is how the candidates propose to promote healthy lifestyles among the citizens, so there will be fewer ill people flocking to hospitals for treatment,” he added.
Hafid Abbas, a professor of education at the State University of Jakarta (UNJ), said that the candidates’ promises of making education in Jakarta free of charge would only decrease the overall quality of education in Jakarta.
“The candidates should think not only about how Jakarta’s youth can get their diplomas, but also about how to equip them with the necessary qualifications to enter Jakarta’s workforce by the time they graduate,” Hafid said. (sat)
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