Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, center, at President Joko Widodo's inauguration ceremony in October. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro)

Ahok's Return to Service Gets Jokowi's Endorsement


NOVEMBER 14, 2019

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gave his blessing on Thursday to former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to return to public service as an executive at an as yet unnamed state-owned enterprise.

Ahok said he had received an offer to manage a state company from State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Erick Thohir during their meeting on Wednesday.

The president has now confirmed that Ahok, his deputy while he was Jakarta governor in 2012, would be handed an executive post.

"He could become a director or a commissioner, or both, but he must pass a selection process first," the president told reporters at the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

Ahok's performance during his time as Jakarta governor in 2014-2017 – marked by his no-nonsense approach in simplifying bureaucratic red tapes – qualifies him for a top post at one of the SOEs, Jokowi said.

"We all know [the quality of] his work. But the position he'll take will depend on a selection process conducted by the SOE Ministry," Jokowi said.

Ahok became governor of Jakarta by default after Jokowi ran for president in 2014 and won.

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SOE deputy minister Budi Gunawan Sadikin said Indonesia has 143 state-owned enterprises whose combined revenues outnumbered those of the state.

The ministry needs the most qualified persons to manage the SOEs' huge potentials, he said.

"The budget for the SOE Ministry is relatively small, around Rp 230 billion [$16.3 million], but the combined revenues from all 143 SOEs amount to Rp 2,400 trillion, slightly above state revenues. It's a very big number," Budi told reporters at his office on Wednesday.

"The president has asked us not to work individually; we must build an ecosystem. We need the best talents available in the country," he said.

The deputy minister said the ecosystem also encompasses companies owned by the regional governments and those at the rural level.

According to Finance Ministry data, the 2019 state budget targets revenues of Rp 2,164 trillion against last year's Rp 1,893 trillion.

SOE Minister Erick Thohir meanwhile said his ministry needs a figure with integrity capable of making breakthroughs for the SOEs and improve their performance.

"We want people with a history of becoming pioneers. They must be able to accelerate progress toward our targets, such as energy efficiency and opening more jobs through partnerships," Erick said on Thursday.

But Erick said he could not name a specific role for Ahok for the time being. 

"I don’t know yet. It all depends on the assessment team. But we hope we can make a decision as soon as early December," he said.