Yudhoyono likely to go for pros

INDONESIA’S NEXT CABINET

Professionals and technocrats are expected to fill key posts while political loyalists will get less sensitive positions.

Now that the Indonesian election results have been announced, the buzz in town is over who will get the key Cabinet posts.

One thing seems clear: Indonesia’s next Cabinet is likely to be dominated by professionals and technocrats.

Most of the key portfolios – in economics and security – will be held by such individuals, to be named by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Oct 20.

Indeed, unlike the outgoing Megawati administration, which was dominated by political appointees, some 60 per cent of the new government will be made up of prominent economists, academics, lawyers and retired generals.

Conflicting priorities appear to be at play as Dr Yudhoyono spends the next few days drawing up a cautious blueprint for his Cabinet.

He is supposed to reward loyalists and political parties with positions in government. On the other hand, he has to fulfil campaign pledges to have more professionals to implement economic reform.

The 55-year-old is banking on his strong mandate from a landslide presidential victory to call his own shots.

The Cabinet format is unlikely to change much, with 35 portfolios or thereabouts.

Senior political adviser Rachmat Witoelar told The Straits Times: ‘The structure of the ship will remain intact but the crew will change. The emphasis is on getting more professionals into key positions.’

This is most obvious in the economic appointments, with three US-trained economists lined up.

One of them is academic Sri Mulyani, who spent a year in the International Monetary Fund in charge of South-east Asian affairs. She is tipped to lead the Finance Ministry.

Dr Mari Pangestu, former executive director of the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, is being considered for the trade and industry portfolio.

And Dr Joyo Winoto, who heads the Brighten Institute think-tank, is earmarked to lead the National Planning Board.

Less clear is who would become the economic czar. Two names have emerged. The first is University of Indonesia economist Ersan Tandjung, who has for the last year been closely associated with the Yudhoyono camp.

The other is current Finance Minister Boediono, a widely respected bureaucrat who has pushed through a slew of initiatives.

While Dr Yudhoyono appears to be veering towards the ‘intellectual technocrats’, his deputy Jusuf Kalla is believed to be keener on ‘action men’.

An aide to the Vice-President told The Straits Times: ‘The mindset is very different. Pak Jusuf is a businessman.

‘While theories and arguments are important, the bottom line is to get things done. And you can’t do that with so many academics around.’

Against such a backdrop, another name making its rounds is Mr Sofyan Wanandi, an Indonesian-Chinese tycoon whom Mr Jusuf is keen to get on board, either in the Cabinet or as an adviser in the National Economic Council.

The Attorney-General’s post is likely to go to Mr Marsilam Simandjuntak, who had held the post in the dying days of the Abdurrahman Wahid administration.

Prominent human rights lawyer Mulya Lubis is slated to head the Justice Ministry.

At least two generals are being tipped for Cabinet appointments. Dr Yudhoyono’s trusted long-time friend Sudi Silalahi, a retired three-star general, is expected to head the powerful State Secretariat.

Former military commander A.S. Widodo might become the security czar.

Representatives from pro-Yudhoyono minority parties – the Democrat Party, Prosperous Justice Party and Crescent Star Party – are likely to get less sensitive jobs.

Indonesia’s two largest Muslim groups, the Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, will each get a Cabinet post.

This week, the President will meet potential Cabinet members personally in a departure from his predecessors who often inducted ministers over the telephone.

He told senior Indonesian editors last week: ‘I will conduct a fit and proper test, between 30 minutes and one hour. I will present my concepts and wishes and then ask whether the person is capable of implementing them.’

The Cabinet will clearly have Dr Yudhoyono’s stamp.

One of his advisers noted: ‘Many people want to influence his decision for personal interests. He needs to keep his allies happy. The cake is large enough to share.

‘But he is not going to compromise on the key portfolios in economics, finance and security. They will go to professionals and people he trusts the most.’

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