Jokowi to Give Poor Indonesians More Money in Election Year

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo will double cash handouts to the poor next year ahead of general elections in April.

The conditional aid, known as PKH and aimed at 10 million families, will cost at least 38 trillion rupiah ($2.6 billion) in 2019 from about 19 trillion rupiah this year, Social Affairs Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday. The funds will be given in four phases with the first two in January and April, a month earlier compared to this year’s timeline.

“We want the poor families to get bigger benefits and faster assistance,” Kartasasmita said, adding that the program has nothing to do with the upcoming elections. “Whether in a political year or not, the PKH indeed has a big role in poverty alleviation.”

Widodo, known as Jokowi, is running against ex-special forces general Prabowo Subianto whom he defeated in 2014. He has ordered builders to complete several infrastructure projects in the main islands of Java and Sumatra before the voting day and has pledged to maintain prices of electricity and subsidize fuel until the end of 2019.

Key Details

  • The conditional aid can range from 550,000 rupiah to about 4 million rupiah annually per family, depending on factors including the children’s level of education and whether the mother is pregnant
  • At present, each family receives 1.89 million rupiah per year from the conditional aid program
  • The government also aims to expand its food assistance program to 15.6 million families by February from about 10.2 million today

It is natural for Jokowi to advocate policies to maintain his popularity while also meeting development targets in his last year in office, said Juniman, chief economist at PT Bank Maybank Indonesia in Jakarta, who goes by one name.

“So, is it only for election purposes or also about boosting equitable development across the country? I guess both,” he said.

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