Technocrats, businessmen dominate new Cabinet

A NEW PRESIDENT

Hopes that the pro-business line-up will lead country’s economic revival.

INDONESIA’S new President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last night announced a Cabinet dominated by technocrats and businessmen to kick-start economic revival.

Announcing his Cabinet some 13 hours after taking the oath of office, the former general said business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie of the Bakrie conglomerate would be Chief Economics Minister.

The powerful finance portfolio went to economist Jusuf Anwar, a former secretary-general of the Finance Ministry who recently retired as vice-president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Dr Yudhoyono also named free-market economist Mari Pangestu as Trade Minister.

The respected United States-trained economist used to head the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Mr Sofyan Wanandi, a prominent Indonesian-Chinese businessman who was instrumental in drawing up a list of names for the main economic posts, said: ‘Some compromises had to be made. The names might change from the original plan but the broad aim still remains – it will be pro-business with strong links to the international financial community.’

Indeed, the 55-year-old leader and his advisers were locked in talks until close to midnight to finalise the list for 34 positions in his new government.

Controversy appeared to have arisen especially over his choice of ministers for economic portfolios.

With cracks emerging in his fragile alliance that included two Muslim-based parties – the Crescent Star Party and Prosperous Justice Party – he had been forced to re-look some of the names he had considered initially for the key posts.

The Finance Minister’s position was originally due to go to Dr Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

Just days ago, the respected economist and the International Monetary Fund’s director for South-east Asia was seen as a front runner for the powerful post.

But her possible appointment raised nationalist hackles over her IMF links, forcing Dr Yudhoyono to consider the 63-year-old Mr Jusuf for the post.

A spanner was also thrown in the works for Mr Abu Rizal’s appointment.

Negative market reaction brought about by speculation that he was not too highly regarded by international lenders.

This was because of his company’s poor payment record in the past offered fodder for critics.

Other names had entered the fray for the top economic post.

But Dr Yudhoyono decided to stick with Mr Abu Rizal who has been involved in preparing a five-year-long economic road map for Indonesia.

Observers believe that the President might have taken a risk with the appointment given that it might concern the markets over the US$1 billion (S$1.68 billion) in debts his conglomerate racked up during the Asian financial crisis.

Less controversial are the other choices in the Cabinet.

The top security minister will be former military commander A.S. Widodo.

The retired admiral, who Dr Yudhoyono served as territorial chief in the military under the Abdurrahman Wahid government, will oversee the war on terrorism.

He will also be one of the key members of the newly formed National Security Council.

Besides Mr Widodo, two other generals will feature in the Cabinet.

Dr Yudhoyono’s long-time friend, retired three-star general Sudi Silalahi, was named Cabinet Secretary.

Mr Muhammad Ma’aruf, another former soldier, was appointed Interior Minister.

The defence portfolio went to a civilian.

British-trained political scientist Juwono Sudarsono, who is currently the Indonesian Ambassador to Britain, held the education and defence posts in previous administrations.

Two ministers retained their positions from the last administration.

Mr Hassan Wirayuda remained as Foreign Minister while Mr Purnomo Soegiantoro held on to the important Mines and Energy portfolio.

The decision means that Indonesia will keep the Opec presidency until the end of this year.

The powerful Attorney-General’s post went to Supreme Court judge Abdul Rahman Saleh who once used to head the Legal Aid Bureau in Indonesia.

He is known most prominently for making the only dissenting opinion in a ruling this year by a five-judge panel to acquit Golkar leader Akbar Tandjung of graft conviction.

Observers said that the final Cabinet list comprised mainly professionals but some 40 per cent of the posts went to loyalists and political parties that supported the Yudhoyono candidacy.

Who’s who in new government

Finance Minister: Jusuf Anwar. US-educated economist. Was head of capital markets watchdog Bapepam in the late 1990s. Currently working at the Asian Development Bank in Manila.

Chief Economics Minister: Aburizal Bakrie. Business tycoon close to Golkar, political vehicle of ex-strongman Suharto. The US$1 billion (S$1.68 billion) in debts his conglomerate racked up during the Asian financial crisis had raised concerns from markets even before his appointment.

Attorney-General: Abdul Rahman Saleh. Supreme Court judge who gave the only dissenting opinion in ruling this year by five-judge panel to acquit Akbar Tandjung, powerful head of Golkar party, of graft conviction.

Oil Minister (Mines and Energy): Purnomo Yusgiantoro. Current oil minister and Opec chief who is close to Yudhoyono.

Trade Minister: Mari Pangestu. Respected pro-Western economist and expert on trade issues. Pangestu, who is ethnic Chinese, has spent the past few years abroad.

Chief Security Minister: A.S. Widodo. Former armed forces chief. A naval officer, he was the first non-army general to lead the military.

Justice Minister: Hamid Awaluddin. A young law professor close to Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

State Enterprises Minister: Sugiarto, a director at Indonesian oil firm Medco Energi International.

Defence Minister: Juwono Sudarsono. Former defence minister, currently ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Foreign Minister: Hassan Wirajuda. Current foreign minister.

Agriculture Minister: Anton Apriantono. Professor at Bogor Agriculture Institute.

Planning Minister: Sri Mulyani Indrawati. IMF director for South-east Asia.

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