Squabbles resurface in reshuffled Indonesian Cabinet

JAKARTA • Less than a week after President Joko Widodo called on ministers to set aside their egos, the Indonesian president's new Cabinet is beset by renewed squabbles, threatening to undo attempts to revive an economy growing at the slowest pace for six years.

Mr Rizal Ramli, the new coordinating minister for maritime affairs, drew a rare rebuke from Mr Widodo after criticising Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno.

The President told Mr Ramli to voice his concerns privately at Cabinet meetings, the President's spokesman, Mr Teten Masduki, said yesterday.

Mr Widodo has vowed to lift growth to 7 per cent, but the economy is slowing. In the second quarter, growth slipped to 4.67 per cent, its slowest pace in six years.

The rupiah has dropped 10 per cent against the dollar this year to 17-year lows.

Mr Ramli, one of six new ministers brought into office in a Cabinet reshuffle last week meant to assuage investors' concerns about policy muddles, challenged Mr Kalla's "unrealistic" plans to build 35,000 megawatts of power plants over five years.

Mr Kalla responded that Mr Widodo himself inaugurated the power programme, and that it is one of the government's signature policies. "That (comment) is playing down the president's authority," he said.

A two-time minister under former President Abdurrahman Wahid, Mr Ramli is known for his strident and often nationalistic views on the economy. He oversees several ministries, including energy, transport and tourism.

Mr Ramli has also denounced plans by Indonesia's national airline, PT Garuda Indonesia, to buy 30 Airbus jets with US$44.5 billion (S$62.5 billion) in loans.

Analysts predict more ructions ahead. "The major deficiency of the Cabinet reshuffle is the return of Ramli to national office," political consultant Kevin O'Rourke wrote in a note. "Ramli is likely to continue provoking discord between ministers."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'Squabbles resurface in reshuffled Indonesian Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe