Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo says he does not want to let horrendous traffic and a host of other urban woes blot out the good things about living in the capital.
While Jokowi might have accepted such talk about Jakarta when he was mayor of the sleepy city of Surakarta, Central Java, the onslaught of bad publicity about Jakarta has apparently ticked him off since he became governor.
At a public lecture at Tarumanagara University in West Jakarta, on Thursday, the governor said that he wanted to replace images of Jakarta as a flooded and gridlocked metropolis with those of a modern city with a strong character.
'We have to build the right brand for Jakarta that makes this city distinctive. To date, foreign people still hold perception that Jakarta is congested and flooded,' Jokowi said.
A new brand image for Jakarta would have to be persuasive enough to supplant images of flooding and traffic jams, the governor said. Jokowi, who was named the world's No. 3 mayor for his tenure in Surakarta, said that ideas for rebranding Jakarta should come from residents.
'If the residents want to build Jakarta into a carnival city, we can make a daily carnival that is different from the annual carnival in Rio de Janeiro,' Jokowi said.
The governor said that Jakarta's multicultural community gave the city great potential to become a performing arts city holding regular shows.
'Our tagline is 'Enjoy Jakarta', but what should we enjoy? We have to gather ideas from the grassroots level such as the RW [community unit]. After we find what we want, we can build the product and packaging,' Jokowi said.
He emphasized his administration's approach of listening to the public, saying that horizontal leadership was best suited to the social media era, enabling people to express ideas as well as to gather support or voice negative sentiment.
'We hold public hearings to get feedback for big projects, so the residents who oppose the plan do not need to stage a protest. They can talk to us and convey to us their concepts,' Jokowi said.
The governor's remarks and humor received an enthusiastic response from members of the standing-room-only audience.
Jokowi presented an update on projects that aimed to improve public transportation, such as an initiative to buy 1,000 Transjakarta buses by November and plans to take over the city's privately operated fleets of deteriorating minibuses.
He once said that bus service would improve once the monorail and the first track of the city's Mass Rapid Transit ( MRT ) projects were completed.
Jokowi also spoke of plans to raise parking rates and to introduce electronic road pricing to discourage private car use.
The monorail project, intended to have two routes spanning 14.27 kilometers in South Jakarta and 9.72 kilometers in East and West Jakarta, is expected to be complete by 2016.
Meanwhile, the construction of the first 15.7-kilometer section of track on the MRT connecting Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta, to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta is expected to be completed in 2017.
After the lecture finished, college students who were fans of Jokowi swarmed him to shake his hands and get photograph.
'He has won my heart with his down to earth profile. He is far from arrogant and very approachable,' Tania Patricia said after showing off the governor's autograph on her smartphone.
Meanwhile, an urban architecture expert from the University of Indonesia, Gunawan Tjahjono, said that building a new brand for Jakarta would not be easy, and that Jokowi needed to specify the character of the capital that he wanted to highlight.
'Every city has its own character. Jakarta has some festivals, too, such as Cap Go Meh,' Gunawan said. 'Jokowi may not really know Jakarta yet.'
Gunawan said that developing a unique character for the capital could be done through promoting architecture and traditional attire and ceremonies, noting that it would take many years to create something that could be recognized as a tradition.
'Jokowi may be able to initiate something new, but whatever legacy he will leave, it will be replaced by his predecessor unless the legacy becomes a tradition,' Gunawan said.