On the cusp of his maiden trip to the U.S., Indonesia's President Joko Widodo says that while his first year may have been rocky, he's still forging ahead with reform plans.
"This is the first year. If you were a building a house, you would have just laid the foundation," Indonesia's president, popularly referred to as Jokowi, told CNBC in an exclusive interview. "Don't ask me about the roof yet, about the walls. I will do will that in the second year, the third, the fourth or the fifth." Jokowi spoke in Bahasa Indonesia and the interview was translated.
Jokowi swept to power a year ago on a platform promising tough reforms, including making the country more attractive to foreign investors and advancing critical infrastructure projects. But since then, he's struggled to push through many reforms and infrastructure projects. The economy is slowing, with second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) rising around 4.7 percent, its slowest rate since 2009, during the depths of the financial crisis.
Jokowi's popularity has also dropped, with research firm Indo Barometer finding that his approval rating fell from around 75 percent when he was elected to around 46 percent in October, according to a report in Today paper.
That drop is partly due to one of his success stories: cutting expensive fuel subsidies, which had been crowding out government spending by sopping up as much as 20 percent of the budget in previous years. The change led to gasoline and diesel prices rising more than 30 percent.
"When I decided to change the price of fuel subsides, I knew when I did that, people weren't happy, they weren't satisfied," Jokowi said, noting the grumbling was amplified by external factors: a global economic slowdown, which has spurred outflows from Indonesia's stock market and sent its currency, the rupiah, down to levels it hasn't touched since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis.