Jokowi replaces 6 ministers to help virus-hit Indonesia recover

Incoming health minister, a former banker, says inclusive approach needed to revive economy which is in recession

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, 56 PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Sandiaga Uno, 51 PHOTO: ST FILE
Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, 45 PHOTO: ANSOR NEWS

President Joko Widodo yesterday replaced six ministers in a 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 state-owned enterprises minister 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 contested the presidential election as a running mate 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 has also replaced two ministers arrested for alleged fraud: Mr Sakti Wahyu Trenggono has been appointed maritime affairs and fisheries minister to replace Edhy Prabowo. And 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, and also a Member of Parliament.

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

The Cabinet comprises 34 ministers, excluding Mr Joko and Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin.

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 today.

Mr Joko had threatened a ministerial shake-up as early as June, when he reprimanded his ministers for their lacklustre handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous nation of 270 million.

The disease has infected 678,125 people and killed 20,257 in Indonesia as at yesterday - the highest in South-east Asia on both counts.

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

The 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.

In response to his appointment, Mr Budi said that an inclusive approach would be necessary to tackle the health crisis and revive the economy.

  • New ministers

  • These are the six new Cabinet ministers named by President Joko Widodo yesterday.


    Budi Gunadi Sadikin, 56

    A long-time banker, he led Bank Mandiri, Indonesia's second-largest bank by assets, and then state-owned mining holding company PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium before becoming deputy state-owned enterprises minister last year. He chairs the National Economic Recovery Task Force and has played a key role in the country's effort to secure vaccines.


    Tri Rismaharini, 59

    She is the mayor of Indonesia's second-largest city Surabaya. A number of breakthroughs she introduced since the start of her tenure in 2016 have solved major urban problems and led to the provincial capital of East Java being named the 2012 Asean Environmentally Sustainable City.


    Sandiaga Uno, 51

    He was an investment banker before entering politics and served as the deputy Jakarta governor in 2017. He resigned from his position in 2018 to become the running mate of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who challenged Mr Joko.


    Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, 45

    The MP is from the National Awakening Party. He is also the leader of GP Ansor, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest Muslim organisation.


    Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, 58

    He is the Deputy Defence Minister. A businessman before joining politics, he was the treasurer in the campaign team of Mr Joko and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin during last year's presidential race.


    Muhammad Lutfi, 51

    He is Indonesia's Ambassador to the United States. Prior to that, Mr Lutfi was the main commissioner of local energy giant PT Medco Energi Internasional. He had also held public service roles as trade minister, Indonesia's ambassador to Japan and head of the Investment Coordinating Board.

    Linda Yulisman

"We believe it won't be enough for the government to initiate its own programmes. It takes a movement that must be carried out by all Indonesian people," he said in his remarks at the presidential palace. "I believe if we are united with associations, regional governments and all elements, we can build a strong public health system and be ready to tackle the problems caused by Sars-CoV-2."

However, unlike his predecessors who were from the medical background, Mr Budi's appointment has stirred concerns. It is expected that he will have a deputy to help fill him in on the medical aspects of the job.

Dr Pandu Riono, a well-known epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia and a staunch critic of the government's response to the pandemic, had praised Mr Budi in a recent Twitter post. He said Mr Budi has a "vision and spirit to overcome the pandemic quickly" with his goal to vaccinate 16 million people each month, adding: "It does not necessarily take a doctor to reform the paralysed public health management and system."

Mr Sandiaga, acknowledging that he has just recovered from Covid-19, described his new role as "a very hard task". But he said he believed that the tourism and creative economy would be the driver of economic recovery in the pandemic's aftermath.

"The strategy that we can adopt is innovation by way of technology... as well as to ensure business players in the tourism and creative economy not only survive, but also thrive," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2020, with the headline Jokowi replaces 6 ministers to help virus-hit Indonesia recover. Subscribe