President Joko Widodo addressed local leaders in Boyolali, Central Java, on Saturday, encouraging them to focus on infrastructure and investment. (Antara Photo/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho)

Bumpy Road for Underperforming Ministers as Joko Eyes Reshuffle

BY :JAKARTA GLOBE

DECEMBER 27, 2015

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has issued an ultimatum to several under-performing ministers who have not shown progress on key infrastructure projects, in a strong indication that a cabinet reshuffle could happen early next year.

During a visit to Central Java, Joko expressed his disappointment that several ministers have failed to get key projects off the ground — citing road projects in Sumatra and Papua and a planned railway line in Sulawesi in a bid to slash shipping costs and boost economies in underdeveloped regions as examples.

Joko said he expects officials at every level to be on the same page on the importance to develop the country's infrastructure and swiftly do all they can to support the program once it is in the pipeline, saying that he would not tolerate excuses such as blaming inter-agency red tape.

“What is the issue? If it is because the ministries [involved] are not on board, then call the ministers that instant. I will give [the ministers] one and a half month. If [the projects] are not [off the ground] by then, they will be given a red mark. By then, the solution would be a reshuffle. Replace [the ministers]. It is that simple,” the president said as quoted by Tempo.

Since becoming president last year, Joko has been eyeing to push more development outside the overpopulated and overdeveloped island of Java in a bid to entice more investment in the rest of the country.

Poor infrastructure has also been blamed for ballooning prices and the stagnant economies of islands outside of Java, but land availability and low support from local governments are also to blame for slow development, Joko added.

“Just imagine, cement in Wamena [Papua] can cost Rp 1.5 million to Rp 2.5 million [$110-$183.62] a sack. Is that fair?” he said, arguing the need for ministries and local governments to support the Trans Papua road project, which has shown little progress since it was first proposed 40 years ago.

The projects highlighted by the president involves the offices of Minister for Public Works Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister for Transportation Ignasius Jonan and Minister for Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ferry Mursyidan Baldan.

Several officials from the National Mandate Party (PAN), which recently joined Joko's ruling coalition, said the president may replace Jonan and Minister for the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya to accommodate the party in Joko's cabinet.

PAN central leadership board chairman Aziz Subekti said on Saturday that the president has expressed his disappointment of the two ministers during a private meeting with party chairman Zulkifli Hasan.

The president, the politician claimed, was disappointed by Jonan's failure to get some transportation projects off the ground and Siti's failure to mitigate this year's forest and land fires, which affected more than half a million people in the country and neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

The party, Aziz said, is preparing its stalwart Taufik Kurniawan as a possible replacement for Jonan and PAN lawmaker Asman Asnur to replace Siti.

Jonan on Sunday denied that the president has expressed concerns of his performance.

The People's Conscience Party (Hanura), another member of Joko's coalition, advised the president not to accept PAN's offer, saying the cabinet should only be filled with parties committed to supporting Joko's rule from the very beginning.

“The ship is full. More passengers would leave the ship tilting to one side,” Hanura central leadership chairman Miryam Haryani said on Sunday as quoted by Kompas.com.

The president last week met with Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Sohibul Iman, prompting speculations that Joko might be courting the opposition party to switch sides.

PKS adviser and former chairman Hidayata Nur Wahid on Sunday denied the speculation, saying that the party is committed to staying “outside of the cabinet.”

“We did not discuss a reshuffle [during the meeting]. The meeting was only a courtesy visit,” he said, as quoted by Detik.

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