The Jakarta Post
Chief patron of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party, Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto, made a pledge on Saturday that if he was elected president he would hand out cash to all the villages in the country.
To lend credence to his pledge, Prabowo signed a pact ' with the pledge inscribed on the document ' with the leaders of seven mass organizations at an event held at Gerindra's headquarters in Ragunan, South Jakarta.
In his pledge, Prabowo promised that he would spend Rp 1 billion (US$90,818) annually on more than 72,000 villages across the country.
He said the cash distribution would be part of his program to build the country from the bottom up, starting at the village level.
'Ninety percent of Indonesia's population lives in villages, yet 60 percent of money in the country circulates within cities,' Prabowo said.
Home Ministry data shows there are 72,944 villages in the country, meaning that if Gerindra's plan is followed, more than Rp 72 trillion will be spent every year for village development.
Currently, only an estimated Rp 42 trillion is allocated from the state budget every year for village development.
When asked if his cash handout program would breed corruption, Prabowo said: 'Villagers don't practice corruption, city folks do. It's smart people who are easily tempted to commit graft. Villagers, on the other hand, are honest people,' he said.
Prabowo also pledged that if he was elected president, he would set up a ministry dedicated solely to village affairs.
The former chief of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) said that if villages were economically strengthened, the whole country would benefit.
At the event, Prabowo won support from a number of mass organizations that had complained about the government's failure to introduce progress in the country's villages.
Rachmat Pambudy of the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI) said the government's mismanagement of funds left villages to suffer with poverty and a lack of educational programs and health care.
'Villages around the country have been neglected for too long. Now, poverty is everywhere,' he said.
Supriyatno of the Indonesian Traditional Market Traders Association (APPSI), meanwhile, urged Gerindra to fight for the deliberation of the village bill, a piece of legislation that, if endorsed, would devolve more authority to village administrations.
A plenary session at the House of Representatives on Friday extended deliberations on the village bill after failing to endorse it after two consecutive legislative sessions.
Yoes Kenawas, a political analyst from the Parahyangan University's School of Social and Politics, said that Prabowo's pledge was a last-ditch effort to win back lower- and middle-class voters who had recently swung in the direction of popular Jakarta Govenor Joko Widodo.
He said it was likely that Prabowo, even if he was elected, would have a problem keeping his village pledge.
'Presidential candidates have other ways of increasing their electability ratings, such as proposing realistic goals based on their track records,' he said.
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