Defusing a Volatile City, Igniting Reforms: Joko Widodo and Surakarta, Indonesia, 2005-2011

In July 2005, Joko Widodo, the first directly elected mayor of Surakarta, faced the daunting job of revitalizing an Indonesian city whose history of violence had earned it the label sumbu pendek in the official Bahasa language—city with a “short fuse.” Seven years earlier, riots had shaken Surakarta, known as Solo, as mobs razed several neighborhoods, destroying homes and businesses. In 2002, Solo made international news again when officials uncovered terror networks in the city. Poorly functioning government services, high unemployment and weak economic growth weighed on the half million residents. With the help of Vice Mayor F.X. Hadi Rudyatmo, the mayor took a series of steps to turn Solo around. Known by his nickname Jokowi, he built alliances with businesses, religious leaders and non-governmental organizations representing the poor. Initially he relocated thousands of street vendors to relieve traffic congestion and created a one-stop shop for business licenses and other services. He also expanded facilities at new vendor locations, improved conditions in slums and upgraded health services. Jokowi then worked to boost tourism and strengthen the economy by reviving Solo’s image as a regional center for arts and culture, both to its own citizens and the outside world. While economic growth bolstered the city’s revenue base, Jokowi reorganized parts of the government to promote efficiency and opened the budget process to greater public scrutiny. In 2010, he and Rudyatmo were re-elected with 90.9% of the vote. This case study recounts their reform efforts between 2005 and 2011.

Rushda Majeed drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Surakarta and Jakarta, Indonesia, in November and December 2011. Case published July 2012.

street vendors
traditional markets
squatter settlements
business license
access to health
Focus Area(s)
City Management
Critical Tasks
Building citizen support
Informal settlements
Making services accessible
Revitalizing urban spaces
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Rushda Majeed