President Joko Widodo. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

New Economics, Trade Chiefs as Jokowi Reshuffles Cabinet

AUGUST 12, 2015

[Updated at 3:13 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, to add comment from observers]

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has dropped five ministers and reassigned one, in a brief but long-awaited cabinet reshuffle aimed at addressing the administration’s widely panned performance on the economic front.

Sofyan Djalil, the coordinating minister for economic affairs, has been replaced by former Bank Indonesia governor Darmin Nasution, while Indroyono Soesilo, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, has been dropped in favor of Rizal Ramli, who served as chief economics minister under the presidency of Abdurrahman Wahid, in the years 2000-01.

Sofyan replaces Andrinof Chaniago as minister for national development planning.

The key post of cabinet secretary, essentially the president’s closest adviser, goes to Pramono Anung, a politician from Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has been openly hostile to the previous cabinet secretary, Andi Widjojanto, who was widely seen as shielding the president from the influence of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Also out of the cabinet is Rachmat Gobel, who as trade minister mired himself in controversy after controversy, including barring imports of used clothing because he claimed they could spread HIV.

Most recently, his decision to slash cattle imports led to beef prices surging, forcing the government to backtrack and increase imports.

The new trade minister is Thomas Lembong, a former investment banker and chief executive of Singapore-based Quvat capital, which manages $500 million in investments, mostly in Indonesia.

Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno has been replaced as coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs by Luhut Pandjaitan, the president’s chief of staff. Tedjo was always widely seen as a political appointee, given the post as a concession by Joko to Tedjo’s National Democrat Party (NasDem).

Present at the ceremony on Wednesday were Megawati, House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto and NasDem chairman Surya Paloh.

Puan Maharani, Megawati's daughter, was the only coordinating minister not replaced on Wednesday. Puan remains the country's chief welfare minister.

M. Romahurmuziy, chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), which is part of the coalition backing Joko, said at the palace that the reshuffle was done only to be able to meet economic challenges.

"This is purely about the economic trouble," Romahurmuziy said. "We know exactly that global economic challenges have an impact on the rupiah. Because of that, our performance in the economic sector needs to be taken to another level after the reshuffle."

Lucius Karus, a researcher from the group Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Legislature (Formappi), said the decision to reshuffle the cabinet looks to have been made after careful consideration.

"Jokowi didn't want to make a decision purely to respond to public desires without his own evaluations and thorough study," Lucius said.  "With reliable ministers, Jokowi's vision and mission to implement change can be realized."

Another observer, Arie Sujito from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, said everybody should support the president's move, as it comes at the right time.

"Minister have to be able to quickly take some concrete steps," the political expert said, adding that the president should ignore whoever may feel that they didn't get what they wanted out of the reshuffle.

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