The highly respected Indonesia Digest prepared by Tuti Sunario in Jakarta reports:
After months of continued pressure by political parties and the media that the President reshuffle his cabinet, - and two weeks after the President finally relented to the pressure when, on Monday, 7 May, President Yudhoyono announced a limited Cabinet shake-up. This is the second reshuffle following the first in December 2005, when the President was forced to change his economic team in the wake of government's slapping a 100 percent increase in fuel prices at the pumps, which resulted in spiraling prices nation-wide, and ensuing strong protests from the people.
This time around, the reasons for immediate change were cited as: slow investments in the real sector; a stagnant industrial sector; increased unemployment and lay-offs; and increased number of poor, despite much improved macro-economic performance, namely a stable Rupiah, decreased inflation rate, and a spectacular growth in Jakarta's share market.
Yet in spite of these successes, basic living costs are still on the rise, especially in the price of rice and cooking oil, and unemployment increasing. Therefore, political parties, economists and the media were adamant that the President must yet again change his economic team.
There had also been a spate of transportation accidents in the past months, in the air, at sea and in railways, and the latest issue was the scandal brought about by the transfer of huge funds of Tommy Soeharto, son of former president Soeharto, from Paribas in London, where the names of Yusril Ihza Mahendra, former Minister for Law and Human Rights and incumbent Minister of State Secretariat, and Minister for Law and Human Rights, Hamid Awaluddin were allegedly mentioned.
The latest destabilizing factor for the cabinet came when Internal Affairs Minister, Muhammad Ma'ruf suffered a stroke and was hospitalized, first in Jakarta and now in Singapore.
The media had added that other ailing ministers who should also be replaced were Minister for Defense, Juwono Sudarsono, who according to rumors is suffering from heart disease, as is Public Works Minister, Djoko Kirmanto.
Therefore, pressures were made on 3 issues, namely to replace ailing/unfit ministers, economic issues related to industry and unemployment, and political/ corruption issues.
New Cabinet Line-up Aims at Fighting Corruption, and Economic-Legal Coordination
However, when the President finally announced his new line-up, - what had so long been anticipated and hoped for by the media and political parties to become a significant overhaul of the cabinet,- turned out to be a rather low-key change: four incumbent Ministers and the Attorney General were let go, and two Ministers were entrusted with different portfolios. In their stead, three professionals and two political cadres were taken on board. But none of the economic Ministers, except the Minister for State-Enterprises, were replaced or removed.
It appears, therefore, that the President had given priority to changing Ministers in charge of legal and administration matters only.
According to the Constitution, the formation of the Cabinet is the sole prerogative of the President as Head of Government, since Ministers are assistants to the President. The President is elected by popular vote.
On the issue of ailing Ministers, in his introductory speech President Yudhoyono explained that he had personally asked his medical team to provide him with a report on the physical conditions of his Ministers. In this aspect, said the President, all were reported to be sufficiently fit to implement their office, except for Minister Ma'ruf, who condition still needs to be reported to him in detail. Therefore, any changes to the post of the Internal Affairs Ministry remains pending.
Furthermore, Yudhoyono said that the purpose for reshuffling his cabinet was firstly to boost output and effectiveness of the Ministry involved as well as of the cabinet as a whole. Secondly, the new line-up is expected to improve synergy among ministers through better coordination. For this purpose he had asked for input from the Coordinating Ministers. Reshuffling, the President emphasized, is not a means (for political party cadres) to take turns in top political posts in the cabinet.
In the process he had taken into consideration the system of accountability, and has also asked for input and recommendations from Vice-President Jusuf Kalla (thus refuting media reports as if the VP had been left in the lurch).
The Ministers who had been removed or are moved in charge of different portfolios include:
1. Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra, Minister of State Secretariat is replaced by Hatta Rajasa, formerly Minister for Transportation.
2. The new Minister for Transportation is Yusman Syafei Jamal, formerly CEO of PT Dirgantara Indonesia, and member of the National Transportation Safety Committee.
3. Minister Hamid Awaluddin, formerly Minister for Law and Human Rights is replaced by Andi Matalata, Chairman of the Golkar Party and Member of Parliament.
4. Minister Sugiharto, formerly in charge of State-Enterprises, is replaced by Sofyan Jalil, former Minister for Communications and Information. Sofyan Jalil once held the post of Deputy Minister for State-Enterprises under Minister Tanri Abeng.
5. Incoming Minister for Communications and Information is Dr. Muhammad Nuh, former Rector of the Sepuluh November Institute of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya.
6. Minister for Developing Regions, Saifullah Yusuf, is replaced by M. Lukman Edy. Secretary General of the PKB party.
7. Attorney General, Abdulrahman Saleh, is replaced by incoming Hendarman Supanji, formerly Head of the Corruption Crimes Investigation Bureau at the Office of the Attorney General.
From changes made, it is clear that the President had given priority to good governance and the anti-corruption campaign, including further reform in the legal system and structure.
As reaction to the Reshuffle, the Jakarta Stock Exchange index shot up, bypassing the psychological 2,000 mark to reach 2,037; and the Rupiah strengthened to Rp. 8,888 to the US dollar, the strongest position the currency has reached over past year.
The new Cabinet was installed on Wednesday, 9 May.
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