The best achievement of Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo after 100 days in office is undoubtedly his ability to build public confidence in his leadership. His attractive persona, popular policies, outreach to the people, including those in slum areas, as well as frequent appearances on television, print and online media have reassured many Jakartans that they have made the right choice as leader of the city.
Jokowi has remained the media darling even while Jakarta recuperates from the impact of last week’s major flooding, which paralyzed the capital city of a country that promotes itself as a future economic powerhouse.
Such excessive media coverage will however backfire on the city and its 10 million inhabitants if the governor is tempted to try to make everybody happy and fails to take the unpopular measures the city needs to address its day-to-day challenges and problems.
There is nothing wrong with Jokowi’s popular policies like free healthcare through the Kartu Jakarta Sehat (Jakarta Health Card) or free education through Kartu Jakarta Pintar (Jakarta Smart Card) in the early days of his administration, although the sustainability of these programs will depend on the approval of the City Council.
But the governor cannot escape the more challenging tasks that whoever leads Jakarta may never be able to completely address, such as traffic congestion and flood mitigation.
Jokowi has come up with the idea of building a giant tunnel under the city as a breakthrough to deal with floods and traffic gridlock all at once, but this needs further studies to assess its feasibility. The governor, too, also looks indecisive when it comes to finding an immediate solution to the chronic traffic jams.
In an about-turn, Jokowi endorsed the plan to build six inner-city toll roads he had previously resisted, after a meeting with Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto. The project remains in the balance even after the governor held an unprecedented public hearing to scrutinize the plan and Jokowi has asked for more time to decide.
More complicated issues await Jokowi during his five-year term. He will reach a certain point where he has to choose between popularity and the continuation of Jakarta’s efforts to narrow its gap with other modern metropolises. He will meet opposition from many street vendors or riverbank squatters as soon as he tries to relocate them from sidewalks or public places not allocated for them.
Motorists have also expressed resistance to Jokowi’s traffic-restriction initiatives like Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) and the odd-even license plate policy, while operators and drivers of public transportation have rejected his plan to stop the operation of aging vehicles as part of his bid to improve services.
Sooner or later Jokowi will have to take bold measures that may appear unpopular but which the city badly needs to maintain orderliness. Without courage, Jokowi will never be able to address the real problems facing Jakarta and build the city as a better place to live.
Of course, Jokowi still has plenty of time to live up to the expectations of his voters and everybody who lives in Jakarta. He deserves the support of the citizens, including politicians at the City Council.
Jokowi was recently named the third best mayor in the world after leading the Central Java city of Surakarta for seven years. This international recognition is an asset Jokowi can take advantage of, but it will mean nothing if he fails to deliver on the promises he made before his election as Jakarta governor.
We feel that 100 days are enough for Jokowi to identify and understand the problems of the city. There should be no more blusukan (field trips) that only lead to media circuses, but rather concrete actions that prove Jokowi and his deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama are working for a better Jakarta.