Op-Ed | Who’s afraid of 2019?

Surfers carry their surfboards as they listen an instructor on a beach during the sunset in Bali, Indonesia, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) — Indonesia has every reason to be more optimistic in 2019 despite all the ups and downs in 2018. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that 2018 has been a terrible year, an annus horribilis. Throughout the year, at least 4,231 people died or were declared missing from 2,426 natural disasters, which have continued to ravage the country in the waning days of 2018. In terms of the death toll, 2018 was the worst year for disasters in a decade.

Add the figures to increased political tension ahead of next year’s general election and renewed violence in Papua, and we could have what could be considered the worst year in the past two or three decades.

But even before all this — and even before Donald Trump was elected United States president — people said that every year was the worst. By focusing only on the negatives, people lose sight of the net positives. In fact, there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic this year, if you can look past the string of natural disasters.

In August, gross domestic product rose 5.3 percent, the fastest pace of growth since 2013. In July, Statistics Indonesia revealed that the country’s poverty rate was below 10 percent for the first time in history. The figure is 9.82 percent or around 26 million people.

For those who have despaired over the direction of where the country is going, this year the country’s judiciary offered a sliver of hope when it struck down a law that allowed children to get married. Although the task of revising a marriage law is in the hands of lawmakers, the Constitutional Court ruled that 16 is not the legal age for a girl to marry.

Entering 2019, many expect that things could take a turn for the worse. After all, this is the year when the legislative election and presidential election take place on the same day. If a gubernatorial election in Jakarta almost tore the country apart in 2017, could a nationwide general election deliver a worse result?

We have every reason to believe that we will come out of this one in one piece. We have seen this movie before. Before Indonesia kicked off the 2018 regional elections, which only wrapped up earlier this year, there were concerns that they could cause chaos and instability. We proved those skeptics wrong.

If anything, political candidates have every incentive to put an end to the toxic politics that began in 2014. If President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the incumbent presidential candidate for 2019, is reelected, it will be his last chance to govern given the term limit, while for his challenger Prabowo Subianto, it will likely be his last shot to win the presidency should he lose the race.

If reelected, Jokowi could be laser-focused in advancing his development agenda without being sidetracked by politics. For the next five years, we can expect to have a healthy debate about what kind of progress we want for the future.

The only way is forward in 2019.