Sabtu, 16 Agustus 2008

President's speech likened to campaign

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made full use of his annual state address on Friday to claim credit for his administration's "success" in reducing poverty and unemployment.

He also promised to raise the salaries of civil servants by 15 percent and use the rest of his time in office to improve public welfare.

Legislators were quick to respond to the President's speech before the House of Representatives, accusing Yudhoyono of campaigning for the 2009 presidential election.

The President said the government had managed to significantly decrease poverty and unemployment rates, and would prioritize its programs to enhance public well-being during the remainder of its rule.

"Poverty has reached the lowest level of the last 10 years, from 17.7 percent in 2006 to 15.4 percent as of February this year, while the unemployment rate decreased from 10.5 percent in the same year to the current 8.5 percent," he said in his annual address to mark the country's Independence Day on August 17.

He particularly stressed the poverty rate, which experienced a decline under both World Bank and State Statistic Agency criteria.

To further alleviate poverty, the government conducted various programs, including direct cash aid, conditional cash transfers, the National Program of Community Empowerment and the disbursement of loans for small and medium enterprises, he said.

The government, he added, would increase the salaries of civil servants and retired officials by 15 percent next year in a bid to boost efficiency and public services.

The 15-percent rise would be in addition to an extra one-month salary for them, Yudhoyono added.

"During four years of this administration, we have increased the salaries of the lowest ranking civil servants two-and-a-half times higher than the Rp 674,000 in 2004. We will raise the salary to Rp 1.72 million each next year," he said.

In the 2009 state budget, the government plans to allocate Rp 143.8 trillion for civil servants' salaries, an increase of Rp 20.2 trillion from last year.

In response to the speech, House members said Yudhoyono was attempting to woo voters and boost his reelection prospects ahead of next year's presidential election, with recent surveys indicating a decline in his popularity.

"It was an extraordinary speech with excessive rhetoric within the context of a political campaign. I suppose he used this moment to pursue his interests in 2009," said Effendy Choirie, chairman of the National Awakening Party faction at the House.

"It was more like a political speech than a state address," said the National Mandate Party's Drajad Wibowo.

However, Syarief Hasan, a legislator from Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, countered the allegations, saying, "The President's speech answered all the country's problems that people have always wondered about."

Priyo Budi Santoso, chairman of the Golkar faction, the largest party at the House, said he was so impressed by Yudhoyono's speech he gave a standing ovation.

But Vice President and Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla did not refute the criticisms, claiming this was how the government conveyed its achievements.

"Politics is all about campaigning. A campaign carried out by the government means doing something and letting people know about what has been accomplished. There's nothing wrong with it, it is normal," Kalla said after Friday prayers.


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