Indonesia's new president unveils Cabinet of party loyalists and technocrats in economic roles

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s new president unveiled his Cabinet on Sunday, a compromise lineup featuring technocrats in key finance roles who will need to push painful reforms to fix the country’s slowing economy, but also including politicians who supported his spectacular rise to power.

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a 53-year-old former furniture salesman who was sworn in as president last week amid high hopes of progressive leadership in the world’s fourth-largest country, had promised to promote professionals to top posts rather than party officials, who in Indonesia have a reputation for corruption and laziness.

Jokowi took the unprecedented step of asking the country’s anti-corruption commission to vet Cabinet candidates, a process that reportedly involved several being rejected at the last minute.

Dubbing it the “Work Cabinet,” Jokowi named former state-owned enterprises minister Sofyan Djalil co-ordinating minister of economics. Bambang Brodjonegoro, a respected economics academic who has worked in government ministries before, was named finance minister.

Those appointments are likely to be broadly welcomed by investors, but ministers will need to quickly take steps to reassure the market they have the clout to cut politically sensitive fuel subsidies that are a drag on economic growth and speed up infrastructure projects in the country of 250 million people.

“It is not that impressive, but at least some ministers are what the market was hoping for,” said Standard Chartered Bank economist Fauzi Ichsan, referring to Djalil and Brodjonegoro.

Jokowi named eight women to the lineup of 30 ministers and four co-ordinating ministers, of note in a country that is home to more Muslims than any other in the world. Among them is Retno Lestari Marsudi — the current ambassador to the Netherlands — who was named foreign minister, the first woman to take the post in the country’s history.

Puan Maharani, daughter of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, was named co-ordinating minister of human development and culture. Megawati was widely regarded as an ineffectual leader with a reputation for corruption, and many of Jokowi’s supporters had urged him to resist pressure to put any of her associates or family members in his Cabinet.

The new defence minister is Ryamizard Ryacudu, a former army chief who led a large-scale military operation against separatist rebels in Aceh province in 2003. He has a reputation for being hard-line and ultra nationalist.