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Jokowi to give poor Indonesians more money in election year


INDONESIAN PRESIDENT Joko Widodo will double cash handouts to the poor next year ahead of general elections in April next year.

The conditional aid, known as PKH and aimed at 10 million families, will cost at least 38 trillion rupiah (S$3.6 billion) in 2019 from about 19 trillion rupiah this year, Social Affairs Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The funds will be given in four phases, with the first two in January and April, a month earlier compared to this year's timeline.

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"We want the poor families to get bigger benefits and faster assistance," Mr Kartasasmita said, adding that the programme has nothing to do with the upcoming elections.

"Whether in a political year or not, the PKH indeed has a big role in poverty alleviation."

Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, is running against ex-special forces general Prabowo Subianto, whom he defeated in 2014.

He has ordered builders to complete several infrastructure projects in the main islands of Java and Sumatra before the voting day and has pledged to maintain prices of electricity and subsidise fuel until the end of 2019.

It is natural for Mr Joko to advocate policies to maintain his popularity while also meeting development targets in his last year in office, said Mr Juniman, chief economist at PT Bank Maybank Indonesia in Jakarta, who goes by one name.

"So, is it only for election purposes or also about boosting equitable development across the country? I guess both," he said. BLOOMBERG