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As Indonesia's Joko Widodo seeks a second term
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As Indonesia's Joko Widodo seeks a second term, rural voters have some doubts

GRINTING, Indonesia, April 15 ------ Two months ago, Indonesian farmer Tama harvested several tonnes of shallots from a small plot of land he had rented in the village of Grinting in central Java. In several ways, Tama had President Joko Widodo to thank for his crop. The Village Fund program, launched by Widodo, paid to turn a dirt track between his house and the farm into a paved road. It also brought more electricity, powering lights that trap moths at night, cutting his spending on pesticides.

Tama's shallots were transported to the capital, Jakarta, 250 kilometers to the west, on a new toll road that was part of an infrastructure drive the President led. But Widodo has also sought to control retail prices, leading to more food imports and a cap on the market price of staples such as rice and shallots, making it hard for farmers to sell at a profit. So as Widodo seeks a second five-year term in this week's election, some farmers across the highly populated island of Java wonder whether he should get their vote.

Tama, 42, did not earn enough in February to repay a loan due on harvest day because shallot prices were so low. "I go to my friends to borrow money, or work on anything I can find," said Tama, who — like many Indonesians — has only one name. Although Widodo, more commonly known as Jokowi, is heading into the election with a comfortable polling lead over his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto, his opponents have seized on his agriculture policy to claim that some of the infrastructure projects don't help ordinary people.

Indonesia's economic growth has hovered at about 5 percent over Widodo's first term, but there has been a drop in real income for the country's nearly 40 million farmers, who account for a third of the labor force. "The government has chosen populist policies and they led to farmers' not getting full attention," said Josua Pardede, an economist at Jakarta-based Bank Permata. Widodo's campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Sriyanto Saputro, a spokesman for Prabowo's campaign in Central Java, said internal surveys suggested he was leading in Brebes.

Source: gmanetwork.com