Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled his cabinet for a second term on Wednesday, retaining former World Bank executive Sri Mulyani Indrawati as finance minister and tapping the leader of the opposition as he seeks to push through reforms. Indonesian President Joko Widodo talks to journalists after taking a group photo during the inauguration of newly appointed ministers at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 23, 2019. The co-founder of ride sharing and payments firm Gojek as well as a former chairman of Inter Milan soccer club were also named to the cabinet, confirming earlier reports.
The make-up of the cabinet was being closely watched to see how many technocrats – who are more likely to fall in with Widodo’s plans for boosting growth and investment – were included. In the end, around half of his cabinet of 34 ministers were technocrats, or people with technical knowledge in their field, with the others better known for ties to political parties.
“First don’t be corrupt, create a clean system. Second, no separate ministerial vision and mission, only the presidential vision and mission,” Widodo said while seated on the steps of the palace flanked by his ministers.
Indonesia last month saw the biggest student demonstrations in decades opposing new bills that critics say undermine the fight against corruption and threaten basic rights.
In a cabinet pick that has been criticized by activists, Widodo named his chief rival, Prabowo Subianto, as defense minister.
The former general who used to head the country’s special forces has been accused by human rights activists of abuses against civilians. His cabinet inclusion is controversial for many supporters of Widodo as well.
But bringing in Prabowo, Widodo’s sole challenger in April’s bitterly fought poll, could make it easier for the government to push through legislation. With the inclusion of Prabowo’s Gerindra party, government support in parliament increases to 74%.
After his swearing in, a relaxed-looking Prabowo said he would immediately head to his ministry.
“I will learn the latest situation and then we will begin work,” he told reporters.
Widodo picked former industry minister and Golkar party chairman Airlangga Hartarto to head his economic team, while confirming the reappointment of Indrawati, an economist, as finance minister, who has now served in various administrations.
The administration would work to revise 74 existing laws hampering investment using “omnibus laws”, Widodo said, referring to laws that group diverse and unrelated issues.
Luhut Pandjaitan, who was retained as coordinating minister for maritime affairs which also oversees natural resources sector and investment, said Widodo had ordered drafts of “omnibus laws” to be completed this year.
The aim was “to provide as much simplification to investment access as possible so foreign direct investment (FDI) can come in,” said Pandjaitan.
FDI has been sluggish in recent years, due to factors such as regulatory uncertainty and weak commodity prices, and Widodo has complained Indonesia has not attracted as much manufacturing investment seeking relocation out of China compared to rivals.
Yose Rizal Damuri at Jakarta’s Center for Strategic and International Studies said the presence of political party representatives in the cabinet remained significant, and could hinder Widodo’s reform campaign.
“Party representatives may have mandates from their own parties,” he said noting that in Widodo’s first term “everyone had their own agenda” in the cabinet. Slideshow (14 Images)
Widodo defended his political appointments, saying what was important is that “chairmen or members of parties are able to divide their time well”.
Among the technocrats, Gojek CEO Nadiem Makarim was named education and culture minister. He told reporters that he had been given the mandate to “break” the system down to “innovate” and would focus on developing “competency-based and character-based” education.
“With 300,000 schools and 50 million students… the role of technology is going to be very big in impacting everything,” Makarim said.
Among other important economic posts, Arifin Tasrif, a former head of the state fertilizer maker, was named minister of energy and mineral resources. Erick Thohir, a billionaire businessman who was chairman of Inter Milan and ran Widodo’s re-election campaign, was allotted the minister of state-owned enterprises post.