JAKARTA, Aug 12 — Indonesian President Jokowi replaced major economic ministers in a cabinet reshuffle today less than a year into his term – as he strive to consolidate his power amid a slowdown in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
Former central bank governor Darmin Nasution was chosen for the chief economics minister post, while Harvard educated and prominent private equity executive Thomas Lembong was appointed as the new trade minister. Four other ministers were replaced in the reshuffle, which followed months of speculation that Widodo planned changes after a poor start to his presidency. Luhut Panjaitan, a former military general and Mr Jokowi’s confindante, was promoted to the powerful post of co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
Political observers were generally divided on Jokowi’s recent cabinet shake up.
“The cabinet reshuffle is a good move as it shows that Jokowi is bold enough to make changes and replace underperforming ministers,” said Salim Said, from the Indonesian Defence University. Wellian Wiranto, an economist with Singapore-based OCBC, said there was hope that Nasution will “have a better chance at coordinating economic policies among the myriad of ministries and agencies which have been largely lacking thus far”.
However other analysts suggested that the ministerial changes will simply cause further upheaval, delaying decision-making, and describe Wednesday’s moves as disappointing. There were hopes for big-name appointments including Sri Mulyani Indrawati, chief operating officer at the World Bank.
Others say new ministers will have little impact, while the president —fails to to take the lead and push through hard-hitting policy reforms. Mr. Jokowi came to power in October after defeating former general Prabowo Subianto in a tightly-contested election, bringing with him high expectations of reform. But the appointment of his cabinet, a mix of technocrats and politically connected figures, brought disappointment, with critics saying he was working too hard to appease some of his political backers. Three ministers at least have long-standing ties to political parties that supported his run for the presidency.
Mr. Jokowi’s economic team also came under scrutiny following the release of first quarter GDP figures that showed economic growth slowing to 4.71% from 5.01% the previous quarter.