How did Anies do as governor? Jakartans, experts are divided

He was generally praised for his Covid-19 response and efforts to improve the city's transportation system, but observers have expressed disappointment over his failure to tackle the city's employment, environmental and housing issues.

Nina A. Loasana

Nina A. Loasana

The Jakarta Post


Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan (left) and Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria (right) pose for photographers on Sept. 13 after attending a plenary session at the Jakarta City Council. The session formally declared the end of the governor and deputy governor’s terms in October.(Antara/Indrianto Eko Suwarso)

October 18, 2022

JAKARTA – Anies Baswedan stepped down from his position as Jakarta governor on Sunday, becoming the city’s first leader in 10 years to complete a full five-year term in office.

The general public and experts have distinctly different views on Anies’ job performance. A February survey by the Populi Center found that 86 percent of Jakarta residents were satisfied with Anies’ leadership. Another survey by the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in June showed that 51 percent of expert respondents who were familiar with Jakarta’s issues were dissatisfied with Anies’ performance as governor.

Anies was generally praised for his COVID-19 response and efforts to improve the city’s transportation system, but observes have expressed disappointment over his failure to tackle the city’s employment, environmental and housing issues.

Leading through crisis

Anies was widely commended for his efforts to tame the spread of COVID-19 in Jakarta over the past two years, despite the fact that the capital was among the hardest-hit regions in multiple waves of infection due to its high population density.

During the devastating Delta wave in mid-2021, which pushed Jakarta’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, Anies worked to help bring the city’s daily caseload down from around 14,600 to 2,600 and reduce the hospital bed occupancy rate from 90 percent to 73 percent in two weeks.

Throughout the pandemic, Jakarta consistently had the highest rates of testing and primary and booster vaccinations of the country’s provinces.

Last year, London tech company Deep Knowledge Analytics named Jakarta among the 50 cities with the best pandemic responses in the world. The capital also received several awards from the Health Ministry for contact tracing and enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.

Transforming transportation

Anies has received awards and international recognition for his efforts to transform public transportation in Jakarta, one of the most congested cities in the world.

Through his administration’s flagship Jak Lingko transportation program, Anies integrated thousands of privately owned angkot (public minivans) with city-owned bus service Transjakarta.

By the end of his term, Anies had met his own target of placing bus stops within 500 meters’ walking distance for more than 86 percent of Jakarta’s residents.

In early 2019, the city launched the country’s first modern subway system, the Jakarta MRT, as well as its first light rapid transit (LRT) system. Both projects, however, were initiated by Anies’ predecessors. In 2013, then-governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo began the MRT project, and in 2015, then-governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama initiated the LRT project.

Anies integrated the MRT and LRT lines with other transportation networks, including Transjakarta and the Commuter Line train service.

To counter the city’s dependence on automobiles, Anies built some 103 kilometers of bike lanes and 67 bike-sharing stations and renovated 265 kilometers of pedestrian walkways.

These efforts landed him a spot as a 2021 Transportation Hero, an award granted by the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), a German initiative focused on the promotion of sustainable urban transportation. Jakarta also won the global 2021 Sustainable Transport Award (STA) for its ambitious integrated public transportation programs, with Indonesia becoming the first Southeast Asian country to receive the accolade.

But these successes were unable to alleviate the city’s unrelenting traffic issues. Jakarta experienced a reprieve in its chronic congestion woes during the height of the pandemic, but since, traffic has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. According to Dutch location technology company TomTom’s live traffic reports, Jakarta’s congestion levels over the past week were up roughly 27 percent from the same period last year, averaging a level of 79 percent during peak rush hours.

Social welfare

The pandemic and ensuing global economic slowdown has dragged on Anies’ efforts to improve the welfare of Jakarta’s 10 million residents.

The unemployment rate nearly doubled to 10.9 percent in the early days of the pandemic. The figure then fell to 8.5 percent in 2021 and 8 percent in February of this year, giving Jakarta the nation’s fastest post-pandemic employment recovery.

But Anies failed to address the increase in the capital’s poverty rate triggered by the health crisis. While the poverty rate in Jakarta fell from 3.93 percent in 2017 to 3.62 percent in 2019, it now stands at 5.02 percent.

Public policy analyst Ah Maftuchan said that while Anies’ social welfare failures were caused largely by external factors, he had not made any fundamental policy changes to address the issues.

“Anies still failed to properly address Jakarta’s affordable housing, energy and clean water problems. In terms of macro-level policy, he still did business as usual and did not make any significant policies to tackle these problems, despite the fact that these issues greatly affect citizens’ social welfare,” Ah said.

On the campaign trail in 2017, Anies promised to build some 232,000 subsidized apartment units for low-income families under his flagship zero-down-payment housing policy. But progress was sluggish and the program was sullied by a corruption scandal.

As of September, only some 2,300 apartment units had been built. Anies also changed the program’s eligibility criteria, making the units available to potential buyers earning up to Rp 14.8 million (US$956.55) instead of up to Rp 7 million.

Data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) shows that as of 2021, some 40 percent of Jakarta citizens did not have access to affordable, livable homes, a significant increase from the two preceding years, at 33.18 percent and 34.25 percent, respectively.

Recently, days after receiving the NasDem Party’s backing for the 2024 presidential race, Anies faced renewed criticism over his handling of the city’s perennial flooding problem, including from the central government and the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Anies denied these claims in a report published last week, saying that in 2020 – when Jakarta recorded its worst rainfall in history of 377 millimeters in a day – floodwaters subsided in under 96 hours in 95 percent of the flooded areas. This was an improvement from the floods of 2015, when Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was governor, where it took 168 hours for water levels to recede in 95 percent of flooded areas after 277 mm of rain had fallen.

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