Indonesian president orders new cabinet to get to work

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 27, 2014 7:01 AM

By Gayatri Suroyo

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo held his first cabinet meeting on Monday and gave his top four ministers until the end of the week to identify policy changes that would remove growth bottlenecks.

Widodo was elected president in July, promising to provide a clean and competent administration that endeared him to voters tired of shoddy infrastructure, corruption and poverty in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

"From the first day, we start working," Widodo said in introductory remarks to the cabinet that were televised live. "There is no need to wait for anything anymore."

Widodo, who was inaugurated last week, inducted 34 people into his cabinet on Monday, a mix of technocrats and political appointees from his coalition. The senior cabinet members are the four coordinating ministers for economics, internal affairs, maritime affairs and human development.

Markets did not react much to the new cabinet picks, with stocks closing down 0.96 percent on Monday.

Indonesia faces strong economic headwinds from fiscal and current account deficits, ballooning fuel subsidy costs, and the slowest GDP growth in five years.

Chief Economics Minister Sofyan Djalil said the president wanted to know how the government could make "quicker decisions on delayed" projects.

A lack of roads, ports, electricity and other basic services, along with corrupt bureaucracies, is beginning to disenchant foreign investors, essential for the resource-based economy to grow.

"We need to make it easier (for businesses) to get licenses," Djalil told reporters after the cabinet meeting. "Right now, it's harder to get a license than to build a power plant."

Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said investment needed to grow more and faster to be able to meet the president's annual economic growth target of 7 percent, a level he did not expect until at least 2016.

"The president stressed that a lot of people want to invest in Indonesia. But if the government can't help with land acquisitions and simplifying the licensing scheme, no one will enter Indonesia," Brodjonegoro told reporters.

Foreign investors have raised particular concerns over Indonesia's energy and gas sector, which has been rocked by corruption scandals that have implicated top government officials, including former energy minister Jero Wacik.

"I ask the media to help this ministry rebuild public trust," new Energy Minister Sudirman Said told reporters at his first news conference.

"If (the energy industry) is not addressed seriously, we will enter a period of crisis."

(Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen, Wilda Asmarini, and the Jakarta bureau; Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)