Indonesia's Widodo to name ex-Astra chief state enterprises minister

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 18, 2014 12:58 AM

By Chris Nusatya and Randy Fabi

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo is expected to appoint former Astra International chief Rini Soemarno as minister for state-owned enterprises (SOE), two advisers said on Saturday.

Widodo will be sworn in as Indonesia's seventh president on Monday and is expected to announce his cabinet the next day.

"Rini Soemarno has a lot of experience in managing the corporations," Hasto Kristianto, a senior member of the transition team, told Reuters.

"Under her leadership in SOE, the government will have 'a special force' to speed up the economic development, such as infrastructure programs and consolidation of SOEs."

Kristianto later told Reuters Soemarno's appointment had not been finalised.

A second adviser, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, also said Soemarno was expected to be named minister of state-owned enterprises.

Soemarno declined to comment.

If appointed as SOE minister, Soemarno would oversee state-owned companies such as energy giant Pertamina and Garuda airlines.

Soemarno, a close aide of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, has kept a low profile since serving as trade and industry minister in Megawati's administration 10 years ago.

Educated abroad, she won respect in business circles as the head of Astra International, the country's largest automobile distributor.

Soemarno was also believed to have been in the running for chief economics minister, along with Widodo adviser Luhut Panjaitan, former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, central bank governor Agus Martowardojo and former central bank governor, Darmin Nasution.

All eyes are on Widodo's choices to head the main economic ministries, who will inherit problems in Southeast Asia's biggest economy ranging from a widening current account deficit and cooling investment to the slowest growth since 2009.

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But the most pressing problem will be cutting big fuel subsidies, a politically sensitive issue that raises the specter of protests within weeks of the new administration taking office.

Widodo is expected to order the steepest rise in subsidized fuel prices in nine years within two weeks of taking office, an adviser told Reuters on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor and Wilda Asmarini; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Robert Birsel)