Widodo defies controversies to form ‘solid team’ – Nikkei Asian Review


Luhut Panjaitan, Indonesia's newly appointed maritime affairs oversight minister, is accosted by press covering the inauguration of new ministers in Jakarta on July 27 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Luhut Panjaitan, Indonesia’s newly appointed maritime affairs oversight minister, is accosted by press covering the inauguration of new ministers in Jakarta on July 27 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA — President Joko Widodo today announced a revised cabinet that includes major changes to his economic team.

“I want all the ministers, all heads of government institutions to work faster, to work more effectively, in a team that is solid and is supportive to one another,” Widodo told a Cabinet meeting less than two hours after nine new ministers were sworn in.

The biggest name appointed to the revised Cabinet was Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who served as finance minister from 2005 to 2010 during the 2004-14 administration led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indrawati on Wednesday said she has resigned from the World Bank to accept Widodo’s offer of the finance minister’s job. She has already been given the task of ensuring successful implementation of recently introduced tax amnesty law.

“I’m extending warnings to the tax director general and the finance minister in regards to many complaints about tax amnesty services. Some people said they came to a tax office only to find no one to explain, or to find officers who cannot explain things in details,” Widodo said, urging the new minister to fix such problems immediately.

The appointment of Indrawati, who has featured regularly in Forbes magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful women in the world, won widespread applause.

Djayadi Hanan, executive director of Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, a Jakarta think-tank, said it will enhance international confidence in the Widodo government.

“Her appointment was a pleasant surprise, and already today the markets have reacted positively,” he said.

Hanan said that in the light of her success in reforming the bureaucracy in the past, Indrawati will probably be expected to help Widodo to remove counterproductive regulations that have hampered investment and infrastructure development.

Despite the largely positive reception, some said that Indrawati’s alleged role in approving a bailout for then-ailing Bank Century in 2008 could pose a threat to her job in the future. The case became a scandal after former executives of the bank were reported to police for fraud. Indrawati took the World Bank job in 2010, in the middle of an intense parliamentary inquiry into the case.


Political consideration

Although the main focus of the reshuffle was economic, politics played a part, with Widodo having to ensure that a wide range of parties and factions are accommodated in the Cabinet.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo leaves Indonesia's Presidential Palace grounds after the inauguration of a reshuffled cabinet on July 27 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo leaves Indonesia’s Presidential Palace grounds after the inauguration of a reshuffled cabinet on July 27 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

“There is a lot of political consolidation now,” said Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, one of those who retained his post in the reshuffle.

One appointment that could prompt controversy internationally is the selection of Wiranto — a former general who was indicted by the United Nations in 2003 for crimes against humanity during Indonesia’s 1975-99 occupation of East Timor — as coordinating minister for politics, law and security.

Head of the Hanura party, Wiranto was tipped to be named a minister in Widodo’s initial Cabinet in 2014 after the presidential election that year. Widodo’s selection of Wiranto this time around is likely down to his party having to cede positions elsewhere in the reshuffle.

“The senior person from the party needed in the Cabinet, to compensate in the reshuffle, is Wiranto,” said political observer Djayadi Hanan.

The man Wiranto replaces as Widodo’s chief security minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, will move to an internationally sensitive post, overseeing the maritime affairs of the world’s biggest archipelagic country at a time of growing tensions over the South China Sea.

“The president wants to increase confidence in the political and security situation in the country,” Pandjaitan told the Nikkei Asian Review after the reshuffle was announced.

The reshuffle comes ahead of the expected execution of 14 accused drug traffickers later this week — the first such punishments since two controversial rounds of shootings, by firing squad, of foreign drug peddlers in early 2015. Those executions strained Indonesia’s relations with neighboring Australia and former colonial power The Netherlands, after citizens of both countries were among those executed.

Citizens of India, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa are among those to be executed this time around. Kumolo would not comment on whether Indonesia was concerned that relations with those countries would be jeopardized, but said that Indonesia works closely with neighboring countries on key issues.

“With Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, we have cooperation over narcotics, security, terrorism,” the minister told the NAR.

http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Widodo-defies-controversies-to-form-solid-team – see link for longer story by Erwida Maulia, Nikkei staff writer and Simon Roughneen, Asia regional correspondent.

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