Extended term for president, soaring food prices spark outrage . . .
Students rallied Monday in multiple parts of Indonesia, including the capital of Jakarta, to protest the speculated extension of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term in office. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. Ministers in Jokowi’s government have discussed a term extension informally, with rumours that the government would change the constitution or postpone the 2024 presidential polls to make it happen. Jokowi has been vague on the topic of an extension but today issued statements assuring the public that the 2024 election will occur as scheduled and banned ministers from further speculating on the issue. The protesters also railed against soaring food prices, particularly for cooking oil. Higher commodity prices worldwide and disruptions to vegetable oil supply chains amid Russia’s Ukraine invasion have caused cooking oil prices to soar in Indonesia.
Sliding oil stock magnifies discontent as Ramadan approaches . . .
Despite being the world’s largest crude palm oil producer, a key ingredient in cooking oil production, Indonesia is currently battling shortages, causing long queues and a 40 per cent price increase for the staple good. The government has attempted to remedy the situation by restricting palm oil exports, setting price caps on retail cooking oil, and providing cash transfers and food aid to low-income households. Prices for other essential commodities like sugar, chilies, and gasoline have also surged as Indonesians prepare for the Ramadan and Idul Fitri festive period, bringing a higher demand for such staples.
Indonesia’s geopolitical ascendancy . . .
This week’s public discontent with Jokowi’s government coincides with Indonesia’s rising geopolitical and economic clout, spotlighted by the country’s 2022 G20 presidency. Jakarta has attempted to walk a middle line in an increasingly polarized G20, particularly amid the Russian-Ukraine conflict. Indonesia could become an alternative coal supplier for the European Union after Brussels imposed sanctions on Moscow. For Canada, Indonesia is a vital diplomatic and trade partner in the Asia Pacific and will be crucial to Canada’s forthcoming Indo-Pacific strategy. This week, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly is visiting Indonesia during the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations and Canada’s 45th year as an ASEAN Dialogue Partner. Minister Joly will also further negotiations toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Jakarta.