Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveils new Cabinet aimed at growing economy

His Onward Indonesia Cabinet ropes in top professionals while retaining seasoned hands

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana Widodo (in front, centre) with his ministers and their spouses at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta yesterday.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana Widodo (in front, centre) with his ministers and their spouses at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled his new Cabinet yesterday, recruiting politicians from across the aisle as well as professionals, including the co-founder of ride-hailing company Gojek.

More than a third of the ministers are from his previous government, with politicians accounting for about 40 per cent of his Cabinet. The line-up reflects his efforts to balance stability with competency by selecting candidates proposed by the political parties that had backed him. The Cabinet also reflects his desire to inject new blood into the government, particularly in his efforts to modernise and grow the economy.

"This is called Onward Indonesia Cabinet. Going forward, we will focus on human development, job creation and boosting opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises," Mr Joko said just days after his inauguration for a second and final five-year term in office.

In his speech, he sounded a warning to new ministers: "First, do not get involved in corruption. Instead, create a system that prevents any opportunity for corruption.

"Work fast, hard and productively. Do not get trapped by a monotonous routine," he added, reminding his 34-member Cabinet that an underperforming member can be replaced at any time.

He retained seasoned hands Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who served in his previous Cabinet as finance minister; Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, a former military officer; and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

Mr Luhut told reporters: "With the current global weakness, the President has ordered (that) we make a smoother process for FDI (foreign direct investment) to come in. Quickly resolve any obstacle holding up the investments."

He will continue as Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, but with the added responsibility of overseeing investments in the country.

Ms Retno said that over the next five years, Indonesia will streng-then its economic diplomacy after having done a lot on other fronts during Mr Joko's first term, including protecting its citizens overseas and its borders, and contributing to regional and global relations.

Gojek co-founder Nadiem Makarim was appointed Education and Cultural Affairs Minister. He told reporters that what is required in the workplace of the future would be very different and constantly changing, adding that technology would help improve education.

"With 300,000 schools and 50 million students, like it or not, technology would play a very important role in the quality, efficiency and administration of the education system in Indonesia that is the fourth largest in the world," said Mr Nadiem, who, at 35, is the youngest and only minister in the Cabinet to represent millennials.


Controversial appointee Prabowo Subianto, who is the new Defence Minister, told reporters: "I will learn first the latest situation (in the ministry), then we will start work."

The former army general and chairman of the opposition Gerindra party had challenged Mr Joko in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, and was a fierce opponent.

But his inclusion, as well as those of other political appointees, showed compromise and the reality of political patronage, analysts said. Many Indonesians, though, said they were disappointed at Mr Prabowo's inclusion.

Under Indonesia's presidential system, Mr Joko as the chief executive has the prerogative to appoint and replace Cabinet ministers.

Although the President has significant authority and powers as head of state and government, he can also be hobbled by an active Parliament, and Mr Joko has a large number of coalition partners.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'Jokowi unveils new Cabinet aimed at growing economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe