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Indonesian presidential contender pitches stronger economic growth
One of the key contenders to be Indonesia's next president has signalled a protectionist stance as he fleshes out his policy platform.


Aburizal Bakrie is so far the only politician to announce his candidacy for next year's contest.

The business tycoon is pitching himself as the man who will make the changes needed to boost economic growth.

Part of his plan is to put the country's resources back in Indonesian hands.

Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown reports.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: One of the key contenders to be Indonesia's next president has signalled a protectionist stance as he fleshes out his policy platform.

Aburizal Bakrie is so far the only politician to announce his candidacy for next year's contest.

The business tycoon is pitching himself as the man who will make the changes needed to boost economic growth. And part of his plan is to put the country's resources back in Indonesian hands.

Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown reports.

HELEN BROWN, REPORTER: Indonesia has what it takes to become a super power, and according to this man, he can make it happen.

Aburizal Bakrie announced his candidacy last year, he is the chairman of the country's biggest party, Golkar, and his political links stretch back to the Suharto era. Heís also the patriarch of a family empire that spans several industries. And this public speech is part of a busy campaign agenda.

(Footage of Aburizal Bakrie speech plays)

ABURIZAL BAKRIE, INDONESIAN PRESIDENTAL CANDIDATE (translation): My fellow brothers and sisters, the first pillar of our successful development is a high economic growth.

HELEN BROWN: Indonesia's posting strong growth of more than 6 per cent gross domestic product. Aburizal Bakrie is one of several prominent Indonesians who says it should be higher, at 8 per cent.

And heís long talked of building up the nation's poor infrastructure to do it.

DR MARCUS MIETZNER, ANUE COLLEGE OF ASIA AND THE PACIFIC: In terms of his policies, it is very clear that he is very much focused on rebuilding Indonesia's infrastructure, in fact you can call him a one issue candidate. Thatís very, very important for him.

HELEN BROWN: But Aburizal Bakrie, like many others, says it is time to put resources back in Indonesian hands. And that attitude could have an impact on international investors, such as the French oil company Total.

ABURIZAL BAKRIE (translation): We have to say we will respect the sanctity of contract but once the contract has finished, why should we need to extend it?

HELEN BROWN: Aburizal Bakrie does make it clear contracts will be honoured but Total is still waiting to hear from Indonesia's authorities about whether its contract to run an oil production block will be extended beyond 2017.

Itís a similar message here for the banking sector, investors are waiting to see what becomes of a bid by the Singaporean bank DBS for a majority stake in Indonesia's bank Danamon. The process has been dragging on, and thatís partly because Indonesia wants the same access to overseas markets as foreign banks get here.

Aburizal Bakrie says thatís only fair, and itís a line that puts him on par with other presidential candidates.

Another hot political topic is the billions of dollars Indonesia now spends on giving its people cheap fuel. Aburizal Bakrie says the subsidised fuel policy has to go. Even though last year, his party blocked a bid to change it.

This time, though, he's publicly met with president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose party, the Democrats, is yet to put up its presidential candidate.

ABURIZAL BAKRIE (translation): So why don't we change a subsidy towards product becoming a direct subsidy? If we do that we would have saved 200 trillion per year. Then we are able to develop infrastructure as the base for us for the next economic growth.

HELEN BROWN: But Aburizal Bakrie faces a tough task to win people to his vision for Indonesia. Heís down in the polls as a preferred presidential candidate.

BURHANUDDIN MUHTADI, LEMBAGA SURVEI INDONESIA: Actually, Aburizal Bakrie is still struggling to get public support from Indonesian voters. Based on the last survey we conducted in April 2013, Aburizal Bakrie just received around 8 9 per cent.

(Footage of the Lapindo Ďmud volcanoí in Sidoarjo, East Java plays)

HELEN BROWN: A lot of the trouble he will have in convincing people lies here, an area devastated by a mud flow that many believe was caused by a company linked to the Bakrie family.

RENDRA TRIWISASTRA, MUD FLOW VICTIM (translation): I think if Bakrie warns to be a president go ahead, but people in East Java we are not vote for him. When people see this incident, who wants to vote for him, he couldn't take care of this small problem, how can he take care of a country?

(Footage of Lapindo mud volcano eruption in 2006 plays)

HELEN BROWN: The mud is still flowing since erupting out of the ground in 2006.

Almost 40,000 people were displaced, 12 villages submerged and an industrial zone cut off. A court case found that the oil company that did the drilling wasn't at fault. The company says an earthquake hundreds of kilometres away triggered the eruption.

However, the Bakrie business has paid out millions in compensation. There is a delay in the final payment though, and thatís creating anger.

SOLEH, OJEK DRIVER (translation): If he wants to be a president, if he doesn't pay for the other 20 per cent of victims, we will not join the election. Itís the commitment of the whole family.

DR MARCUS MIETZNER: Itís all over the newspapers, itís all over the TV and radio stations, so it has become in fact a symbol of Aburizal Bakrie's problems. And again it compounds this image of a capitalist who is interested in pursuing business interests but is not really well connecting with the ordinary Indonesians and their day to day problems.

HELEN BROWN: Itís a question the candidate is regularly asked about. He doesn't see it as a problem.

ABURIZAL BAKRIE (translation): No, I am not worried. Otherwise, my rating would not make it to the big four. Sometimes in the big three, sometimes number one, sometimes number two. If Lapindo really has an impact, my rating would be dropped.

BURHANUDDIN MUHTADI: He is very pragmatic and rational. And I think he, you know, now he is trying to campaign very hard. But at a time he has to decide whether to run or not for the next election and that is depending on his electability.

HELEN BROWN: While Aburizal Bakrie is the Gulcar Party candidate, the actual process where nominations are put to the electoral commission doesn't happen until May next year. Until then, though, Aburizal Bakrie is pushing hard to have the chance to lead the country, and the policy course he sets will be a part of the debate about the future of Indonesia.
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