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Jokowi Says Successor Must Adopt His Reforms to Reach 7% Growth

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia’s outgoing President Joko Widodo said Southeast Asia’s largest economy can attain its fastest expansion in three decades under the next leader, who will build on the reforms he’s trying to cement.

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Jokowi, as the president is known, forecasts 6% to 7% gross domestic product growth by 2027 to 2028 as the country reaps the benefits of his policies that include an aggressive infrastructure rollout and the push for onshore processing of mineral resources. The top end of the annual forecast would be the fastest pace since 1996, according to compiled data.

“It has to be prepared so that there’s continuity,” he told Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin during an interview near Bandung on Tuesday. “Each leader shouldn’t have their own vision — changing the vision and the orientation would put us back at the start,” he said when asked whether his successor will continue his programs.

Ending a decade of rule next year, Jokowi, 62, is seen to bank on an enduring popularity to back a presidential contender who will continue his policies and buttress his legacy. That will enable the former furniture maker who was once a political outsider to stay influential for years to come. Jokowi himself may even be building his own political dynasty.

Jokowi’s “Golden Indonesia” — a 2019 campaign pledge — will arise from an economic roadmap that will bring the country’s per capita GDP to $25,000 by 2045 and create 10 million jobs. In his final year in office, he’s seeking incentives from the US for its green energy transition while carefully balancing ties with its most important economic partner: China.

The leader who swept to power in 2014 on a promise to lift GDP growth to 7% has managed to keep domestic expansion steady around 5% at a time when the global economy teeters on the edge of a recession. Jokowi said during his term, the external environment wasn’t favorable and the local infrastructure wasn’t sufficient, and that’s why he’s ramping up the rollout.

Speaking at the train depot of Southeast Asia’s first ever high-speed rail, Jokowi touted his infrastructure push: 16 new airports, 18 new ports, 36 dams and over 2,000 kilometers of toll roads.

Next in the pipeline is a new capital city in Borneo’s jungle envisioned to spread development beyond Indonesia’s main island of Java that accounts for more than half of the population and almost 60% of GDP.

Jokowi’s aggressive building spree has stirred criticism, such as budget overruns and delays. Construction in the capital city called Nusantara isn’t proceeding as fast as anticipated.

“Infrastructure will create new economic growth centers,” Jokowi said. “But not now, maybe in the next 10-15 years. The choice is whether to build now or later. I choose to build now.”

His successor must be brave, bold and not afraid to take risks, according to Jokowi.

“We need leaders who have the courage to defend Indonesia’s national interests. Leaders who unite Indonesia, who serve the people, who know the macro and the micro but can also work in detail,” he said, declining to reveal his bias.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan are the top contenders for the post, though the registration of candidacy will only open next month.

The president’s youngest son is the latest in the family to reveal political ambitions, seeking to become a mayor in the 2024 election. Jokowi has three children and one of them is the mayor of Solo. His son-in-law runs Medan — one of Indonesia’s largest cities.

Jokowi said he wants to return to his hometown of Solo and become an environmental activist once he concludes his second and final term. “I want to return to my family. That’s the plan, but sometimes plans can change,” he said.

The president ended the interview to visit a nearby state-owned arms manufacturer PT Pindad, before heading for lunch with Prabowo, his defense minister and ex-rival who’s the former son-in-law of dictator Suharto. The two are frequently seen together.

Here’s what else Jokowi said:

  • Indonesia is still in talks with Tesla Inc. on its potential investment in the nation’s electric vehicle supply chain

  • Indonesia is exploring investments from other EV makers, including BYD Co. as well as Vietnamese company Vinfast Auto Ltd.

  • Foreign investors may be “waiting for the election” before they commit to the new capital. Domestic private investors will take the lead in developing the Nusantara, with some projects such as hospitals, hotels and universities starting construction this month. “If domestic investors have the courage to come in, foreign investors will follow,” Jokowi said

  • Indonesia is keen to join the OECD as it would be “greatly beneficial” for its national interests, while weighing carefully whether to join BRICS. “We don’t want to rush. The point is Indonesia is ready to cooperate with anyone as long as there’s mutual benefit and respect,” the president said

  • The country will push ahead with the downstreaming of its minerals and natural resources, lining up commodities that it will stop exporting in their raw form, including copper, bauxite, tin, crude palm oil and seaweed

--With assistance from Faris Mokhtar, Norman Harsono and Soraya Permatasari.

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