Jokowi appoints special envoy for poverty eradication, food security

Experts expect the post to lay the groundwork for strong collaboration between different government institutions that has been so far lacking.

A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

The Jakarta Post


Low-income people line up for healthy food packages jointly provided by the local administration and the Indonesian Military (TNI) in the Central Java regency of Tegal on July 26, 2022.(Antara/Oky Lukmansyah)

November 25, 2022

JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has inaugurated politician Muhamad Mardiono as his special envoy for poverty eradication and food security.

“[Mardiono] is tasked with the coordination and control of government programs specifically on poverty eradication and food security. Looking forward to your work,” Jokowi tweeted on Wednesday.

Formerly a member of Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres), Mardiono is also the acting chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), who assumed the post in September following an internal party rift that saw chairman Suharso Monoarfa ousted from office.

Speaking after his inauguration ceremony at the State Palace on Wednesday, Mardiono said that the President expected him to make sure that government programs become concrete actions to achieve the “no poverty” and “zero hunger” targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

“Achieving those targets is one of the national development priorities, which will require synergy of policies, planning and implementation,” Mardiono said, as quoted from a press release.

“We know that we are currently [also] facing [the looming threat of] a global recession, hence food security is our top priority.”

He cited Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data that showed the domestic poverty rate in March stood at 9.54 percent of the population, some 26.16 million people.

While the BPS data mark a decrease of 0.17 percentage points from the last survey, which was conducted in September 2021, it hardly makes Indonesia a more equal society, as the agency reported on the same day that the Gini ratio had increased by 0.003 to 0.384. The Gini ratio, also called the Gini coefficient, is an indicator of inequality, where zero represents complete equality and 1 represents total inequality.

“This shows that we need to strengthen the availability of supply, quality and sustainability of foodstuffs as well as their affordability for the people. Next, I will make sure that the poverty rate will continue to decrease,” Mardiono said.

He plans to tour several areas across the country to see what is happening on the ground and devise strategies to fast track poverty eradication and improve food security.

Experts have welcomed the establishment of the special envoy post, expecting it to lay the groundwork for strong, efficient collaboration between different government institutions that has thus far been lacking.

Bhima Yudhistira from the Center of Economic and Law Studies (CELIOS) said that the President might have noticed how ministries and agencies were struggling to synchronize policies on poverty eradication and food security. Jokowi, he said, would need Mardiono to integrate government programs into a single policy package, particularly if he wanted to build a legacy for when he ends his second and final term in 2024 as his ministers might be distracted by the elections.

Bhima suggested that Mardiono should look for ways to increase Indonesia’s rice reserve. “What keeps our food price inflation lower than other countries right now is because rice [supply] is still relatively stable. We must pay extra attention to this,” he said

Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) agriculture expert Dwi Andreas Santosa said that eradicating poverty and ensuring food security could both be addressed by ensuring the welfare of farmers.

“The envoy has to come up with clear concepts on how to improve their welfare,” Dwi said.

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