International Asia Indonesian presidential debate: defence budget of 0.8 percent too low compared to...

Indonesian presidential debate: defence budget of 0.8 percent too low compared to Singapore’s 3 percent

Defence budgeting is the focus during fourth presidential candidate debate.

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Jakarta – With Indonesia’s presidential and legislative elections set for Apr 17, presidential candidates focused on the nation’s defence budget during their fourth debate on Mar 30.

According to Bloomberg, presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto said he would greatly increase the country’s spending on defence to boost its armed forces’ capacity in protecting the world’s third-largest democracy from outside threats. Meanwhile, the incumbent Joko Widodo said that the focus should be placed on technological capabilities, for future wars would be won on technical prowess.

Prabowo, a former general, noted that Indonesia’s current defence budget of 0.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product was insufficient and did not stand a chance as compared to Singapore’s 3 percent defence budget.

Due to Prabowo’s past criticisms toward the Jokowi administration for having built a focus on Chinese investments and a dependence on China for trade, the presidential candidate was expected to mention the role of China during the recent debate. Instead, he focused on the defence budget.

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In turn, Jokowi mentioned his administration’s success in acquiring infrastructure projects while keeping majority ownership, as with the case of the Grasberg copper and gold mine that the current Indonesian government holds 51.23 per cent of and co-owns with Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

“Our limited budget makes us invite investments, but when it comes to sovereignty, we will not give even one centimetre,” says the current president, stressing that the investments come from companies, not countries.

Prabowo’s other election promises were to lower company and individual taxes to boost economic growth, and to cease food imports while working on Indonesia’s ability to supply its own agricultural produce.

He also mentioned Indonesia’s rising debt and weak currency which he blames on the Jokowi administration: “Indonesia is not that respected abroad, because they know that Indonesia has a mounting debt, weak exchange rate, and we even import food,”

With polls showing a 70 per cent approval rating, Jokowi is on course to winning his second five-year term.

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