2019/87, 24 October 2019
On 23 October, PRESIDENT Joko Widodo has announced his cabinet. The composition of this Cabinet is not radically different from the previous one. Jokowi retained 16 ministers (42%) from his previous Cabinet, with some taking on different ministries, 33 members of the new Cabinet are males (87%) and only 5 are females (13%). The number of female ministers is slightly less than before.
Jokowi kept his pledge to maintain a balance between ministers who come from political parties and professionals. 21 ministers are professionals (55%) while 17 of them are from political parties (45%).
In determining his cabinet members from political parties, Jokowi has tried to follow the representation of parties in the DPR (parliament). PDI-P has five ministers in the Cabinet, while Golkar, Nasdem, and PKB are each got three. Gerindra got two ministers and PPP has only one. Three political parties with significant number of seats in the DPR, namely PKS, PAN, and PD, do not have any of their members in the cabinet.
The most controversial decision was to give two cabinet seats to the opposition party, Gerindra. Jokowi appointed Gerindra chairman, Prabowo Subianto, his arch rival in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, to be the minister of defence. The other seat went to Edhy Prabowo, deputy chairman of the party and Subianto’s acolyte. He will serve as minister of maritime affairs and fisheries, a post once held by the very popular minister, Susi Pudjiastuti.
The economic team of President Widodo is filled with old and new faces. The coordinating minister for the economy is Airlangga Hartarto, a holdover from the previous cabinet. Jokowi also retained Sri Mulyani as finance minister and Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita (former social minister) who is now minister of industry. Other economic posts are held by less known businessmen. Agus Suparmanto hold the position of trade minister and Bahlil Lahadia, the chairman of the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association (HIPMI), is appointed as the head of the investment agency (BKPM).
The cabinet’s biggest surprise choice was Prabowo Subianto who was appointed minister of defence. Prabowo is a former general who was dismissed from military service for being involved in the abduction of activists in 1998. Another surprise was the appointment of former army general Fachrul Razi who now serves as the minister of religion. The ministry is such an important post because it manages the fourth largest budget and half of educational institutions in the country. Mr. Razi is the first military general to hold the post since the New Order.
Another surprise was the appointment of GoJek’s CEO, Nadiem Makarim, as minister of education. This cabinet post is usually saved for elites from Muhammadiyah, a religious organization. The appointment of Mr. Makarim signals President Widodo’s determination to improve the skills of the Indonesian workforce.
In addition to Mr. Makarim, Jokowi also picked Wishnutama, the CEO of online Net TV as the minister of tourism and creative economy. These ministers are very popular among Indonesian youths.
President Widodo’s new cabinet is significant in three ways. First, the cabinet is a result of a political transaction between Jokowi and Indonesia’s most powerful elites. Second, Jokowi tries to fulfill his promise to improve Indonesia’s human resources while at the same time trying to increase investment to the country. Third, President Widodo has ruled out issues outside the economy. He no longer spoke of democracy, social justice, or human rights issues.
Judging from the composition of the cabinet and the orientation of President Jokowi, one cannot help but to compare it with cabinets during New Order regime.
Mr Made Supriatma is Visiting Fellow in the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
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