JAKARTA: Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto has outlined his commitment to stabilise the nation's faltering economy, but as his popularity rises, analysts question whether the former military leader is capable of distancing himself from his nationalistic aspirations and allegations of grave human rights abuses.
Speaking to foreign correspondents here last Wednesday, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) founder outlined his plan to "face Indonesia's problems".
Through a series of measures, including proposed subsidy cuts in the oil and gas sector, an increase in the tax ratio and budget tightening, Prabowo proposed state savings of US$116 billion (RM373.9 billion).
Known for his nationalistic approach to economic policy, Prabowo emphasised his commitment to "uphold Indonesia's national interests" but made it clear that this does not necessarily translate into protectionist policies.
"We must compete. But how can we compete if the starting level is so lopsided?" Prabowo said, outlining his plan to create a stable and attractive investment environment through clean governance and good management.
"Unless we achieve effective governance, I think Indonesia is in danger of becoming a failed state," the 61-year-old former army general said.
Revrisond Baswir, an economist at Gadjah Mada University, said it is possible Prabowo could achieve his US$116 billion goal.
"It's not about the numbers, it's about his vision on what kind of economy he will develop," Revrisond said, questioning the amount of indirect costs needed to achieve such a target.
He pointed to concerns of Prabowo's nationalistic mantra, warning that, as with previous candidates, promises do not always amount to concrete policies.
Aleksius Jemadu, dean of Pelita Harapan University's School of Government and Global Affairs, said Prabowo's main rival is Joko Widodo, who Prabowo supported as Jakarta governor. Recent polls indicate that the two are the most likely to win the battle for the top job. One obvious competitive advantage Joko has is a clean human rights record.
Prabowo has long dismissed the extent of his involvement in the 1998 forced disappearance of pro-democracy activists. He has also been accused of human rights abuses in Timor Leste and violence against student protesters during his time in the military.
Due to these allegations, which has seen the presidential candidate barred from entering the United States, many rights groups have questioned his commitment to human rights if he were to take office.