Indonesia's President Joko replaces six ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has threatened a ministerial shake-up as early as June. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Dec 22) replaced six ministers in a major Cabinet reshuffle aimed at helping Indonesia recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which has plunged the country into its first recession since the 1998 financial crisis.

Mr Budi Gunadi Sadikin, a deputy minister for state-owned enterprises who also leads the national economic recovery task force, has been named the new health minister to replace Dr Terawan Agus Putranto.

Mr Sandiaga Uno, a former Jakarta vice-governor who also ran in the presidential election as a deputy to Mr Joko's rival, Mr Prabowo Subianto, has been appointed Tourism and Creative Economy Minister, replacing Mr Wishnutama Kusubandio.

Mr Prabowo is Indonesia's current Defence Minister.

Mr Joko had also replaced two ministers arrested for alleged fraud.

Mr Sakti Wahyu Trenggono has been appointed maritime affairs and fisheries minister to replace Edhy Prabowo.

Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini will be the new social affairs minister, replacing Juliari Batubara.

The new religious affairs minister is Mr Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, leader of the Ansor youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest Muslim organisation.

The trade minister has also been replaced with Mr Muhammad Lutfi, the current Ambassador to the United States.

Mr Joko, or Jokowi as he is better known, did not comment after naming the new ministers. However, he wrote on Facebook: "What's past is past, to live as memories and lessons. We look to tomorrow with determination, enthusiasm, and new hope."

He wrote in a separate posting later: "Hopefully these six new ministers will bring new enthusiasm and new hope, for us, for the people, and for the nation."

The inauguration of the new ministers will be held on Wednesday (Dec 23).

There are a total of 34 Cabinet ministers, excluding Mr Joko and Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin.

Cabinet reshuffles can be carried out at any time, but usually around a year after a Cabinet is installed. Ministers were evaluated, and then moved to more suitable posts or replaced if they are seen as not performing well.

Mr Joko has threatened a ministerial shake-up as early as June, when he reprimanded his ministers for their lacklustre handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 650,000 people and killed around 20,000 in Indonesia.

Incoming Health Minister Budi is expected to chart a new course of actions and commitments to mitigate the health and economic impacts of Covid-19 in South-east Asia's largest economy of 270 million people.

The 56-year-old former banker, listed as one of The Straits Times 50 Asians to Watch in 2018, is known to possess strong management skills, which may be valuable when dealing with such issues as disbursement of health budgets and distribution of healthcare resources.

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