Cabinet shake-up in Indonesia by August, say sources

The Cabinet reshuffle will be the third by Mr Joko (above) since he took office in 2014.
The Cabinet reshuffle will be the third by Mr Joko (above) since he took office in 2014.PHOTO: AFP

A cabinet shake-up can be expected by August, government sources told The Straits Times (ST), as President Joko Widodo approaches the third of his five-year term as leader of South-east Asia's largest economy.

The cabinet reshuffle, which will be Mr Joko's third since he took office in 2014, is aimed at weeding out weak performers and those who have not been supportive of his political agenda, two sources in government told ST this week.

The two sources said changes at the top of economic-centric ministries are on the cards. Last year, Indonesia recorded economic growth of 5.02 per cent, higher than the revised 4.88 per cent in 2015, but the slow pace disappointed many, who had expected an expansion of at least 5.3 per cent.

Political analyst Ali Nurdin of the Mathla'ul Anwar university in West Java said a cabinet reshuffle is the prerogative of the President, who can decide the timing of the move.

"Jokowi is more than half-way through his five-year term. It is understandable that he wants to make certain adjustment to ensure he accomplishes what he has targeted to do when his term ends," said Mr Ali, referring to Mr Joko by his nickname. "The President may feel that some ministers cannot keep up with the commitment that he has announced to the public," he added.

Some infrastructure projects and other populist programmes were not carried out as quickly as the President had expected, he said. For example, Mr Joko's government has found it hard to deal with problems such as hikes in prices of imported food items and slowing growth in the fishery industry.

In addition, a prolonged delay in the construction of what would be Indonesia's first high-speed railway linking Jakarta and Bandung, West Java province, has affected the popularity of Mr Joko's government. This project involves state-owned Indonesian companies and the Chinese government.

The government's lack of foresight in preventing mosques from being illegally used to campaign against Mr Joko's ally, Christian-Chinese Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election earlier this year, has also disappointed many.

During the last cabinet reshuffle in July 2016, Mr Joko installed former World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati to spearhead his economic reform agenda, and boost tax collections.

Mr Joko also replaced three ministers who are former leaders of the prominent Association of Islamic Students, a move some saw as unwise as it could have distanced him from the Muslim community.

The first cabinet shake-up in August 2015 saw one of his closest aides, Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, appointed coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister.

"Like the previous two reshuffles, the main aim of this impending reshuffle would likely be to make the cabinet more effective, while also ensuring there is a good balance of representation from political parties in the ruling coalition," analyst Ali Nurdin said.

The impending political musical chairs, according to observers, would signal improved relations between Mr Joko and his deputy Jusuf Kalla, as the latter has been roped in to evaluate ministers' performance for the first time.

Mr Joko had asked Mr Kalla to gauge the work of cabinet ministers ahead of the Hari Raya holiday on June 25, after Mr Kalla expressed disappointment about being overlooked when it comes to decision-making on various occasions previously.