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Indonesia presidential race heats up

Prabowo talks down economic performance of Jokowi's government, says country's 'wealth is robbed continuously, taken and sent abroad'

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"Indonesian people are fed up, want improvement, want change," says Mr Prabowo.

Jakarta

INDONESIAN presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto called for change in a rally on Sunday, talking down the government's economic performance as competition heats up ahead of an election next week.

Indonesia goes to the polls on April 17 in a contest that pits the incumbent Joko Widodo against the contender with the economy being the focal point in the race. President Joko was to speak later in the day at South Tangerang in the province of Banten.

Mr Prabowo, a former general whom Mr Joko beat in the 2014 election, told a rally at a stadium in Jakarta that Indonesia's "wealth is robbed continuously, taken and sent abroad", and that the leakage would cost the country 10,000 trillion rupiah (S$959.2 billion) over the next five years.

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"Indonesian people are fed up, want improvement, want change," Mr Prabowo said. He put the number of people at the rally at "more than a million" although that figure could not be verified.

The latest polls have Mr Joko on track to win, with a Roy Morgan survey April 3 putting support for him at 56.6 per cent. Still, Mr Prabowo has closed the gap in recent weeks on the back of a promise to lower prices and to get "a better deal" in trade with China. Some surveys have estimated about 10 per cent of voters remain undecided.

South-east Asia's biggest economy has been growing at about 5 per cent, below the 7 per cent targeted by Mr Joko when he came to office in 2014. Meanwhile, inflation eased to 2.48 per cent last month, the slowest pace of price growth since 2009.

Mr Joko touted a massive infrastructure drive as a key achievement over his first term while vowing to alleviate poverty and create more jobs if he stays in office. Mr Prabowo has also pledged job creation, while hitting out at the government over a current account deficit and trade imbalance with China.

The two candidates have a series of mass rallies planned before a campaign blackout period begins on April 14. BLOOMBERG