Editorial: Still Plenty of Questions After Reshuffle


AUGUST 12, 2015

The much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle has left the Indonesian public with more questions than answers. President Joko Widodo addressed many of the weak points of his former cabinet but failed to address public concern over the influence of political parties, especially the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), on his new administration.

The new cabinet ministers involved in shaping Indonesia's economy are seen as an upgrade to their predecessors, given that they have plenty of relevant experience. Look at Trade Minister Thomas Lembong, Coordinating Minister for Economic Effairs Darmin Nasution and Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli.

The decision to appoint Sofyan Djalil to replace Andrinof Chaniago as minister for national development planning is also a positive addition to the new cabinet, which needs leaders with a strong economic and legal background, over and above a strict political background.

Having said this, the cabinet reshuffle took place during a time of adversity. The global economic situation — particularly the recent Chinese yuan devaluation — has put heavy pressure on the Indonesian economy, overshadowing the positive impact of the reshuffle.

The appointment of Pramono Anung as cabinet secretary, replacing the relatively inexperienced Andi Widjajanto, can also be seen as a step in the wrong direction. The cabinet secretary along with the state secretary are two key appointments that must act as the eyes and ears of the president, so to speak.

However, the appointment of Pramono shows that the president has allowed himself to be surrounded by politicians who are not necessarily loyal to him.

Pramono is a senior member of PDI-P and a close aide of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri. 

Although Andi's performance in his former role was not up to the mark, his loyalty to Joko was evident. However, in the case of Pramono the verdict is still out on whether his real loyalty lies with Megawati or with Joko.

Under Pramono, the position of the cabinet secretary will be expanded to cover the role of the chief of staff, which was previously held by Luhut Pandjaitan, another loyalist of Joko, who has been reshuffled to assume the position of coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

Another interesting step is the decision to keep Puan Maharani, Megawati's daughter, as coordinating minister for culture and human development.

The expectations and prospects for the Indonesian economy are now low — given that the Indonesian stock market is playing the waiting game as investors seek concrete proof of positive development. Until then, the cabinet ministers will be pressed to prove themselves.