Indonesia’s new cabinet sparks mixed reaction

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#Indonesia: New cabinet sparks mixed reaction; will hold first meeting on Monday http

INDONESIA’S newly appointed cabinet will hold its first meeting on Monday after President Joko Widodo’s choice of ministers received a mixed reaction.

Mr Widodo unveiled his cabinet on Sunday, appointing the country’s first ever female foreign minister.

Analysts broadly welcomed two technocrats to key economic posts to guide the country’s economic reforms.

However, there was concern the president had given nearly half the jobs to political allies.

Mr Widodo, who was sworn in as president last week, had previously promised to promote professionals to top jobs rather than party officials.

“The process of defining the ministers was done carefully and cautiously as this is a priority,” said Mr Widodo.

A cabinet of compromises is what analysts have dubbed Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s new team.

He has picked a combination of professionals and party officials, disappointing supporters who had urged him to shun political appointments.

Amongst the most controversial appointments is the new defence minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu – a former army chief with a chequered human rights record, seen to be close to Megawati Sukarnoputri, the matriarch of Mr Widodo’s political party PDIP.

Her daughter, Puan Maharani, has been appointed as co-ordinating minister of human development and culture – a position that didn’t exist until this cabinet.

Currently Mr Widodo enjoys the support and affection of the Indonesian people. Political observers say that patience may soon wear thin if he fails to make good on his promises to reform education, healthcare and infrastructure.

He had asked the country’s anti-corruption commission to vet candidates, an unprecedented move. The Corruption Eradication Commission rejected eight of his candidates based on graft concerns last week.

“The cabinet will be working for five years and we want to get the clean ones… because we want to be accurate and right,” he said.

Calling it the “Working Cabinet”, Mr Widodo gave former state-owned enterprises minister Sofyan Djalil the position of co-ordinating minister of economics. Bambang Brodjonegoro was appointed finance minister.

“They know the problems and have high integrity and track records,” said Destry Damayanti, chief economist at Bank Mandiri. “I expect them to lead structural and fiscal reform in Indonesia to accelerate economic growth.”

Eight women were chosen out of a total of 34 positions. Among them is Retno Lestari Marsudi, the current ambassador to the Netherlands, who will be the country’s first female foreign minister.

Eighteen of the appointments were seen as technocrats while the remaining posts were given to members of the four political parties that backed Mr Widodo during his election campaign in July.

Political observer Miftah Thoha from Gadjah Mada University told BBC Indonesia that Mr Widodo was “overshadowed by political interests” in choosing his ministers.