Jokowi’s ‘working’ cabinet receives cautious welcome

Jet Damazo-Santos

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Jokowi’s ‘working’ cabinet receives cautious welcome


The list includes 8 women, including Indonesia's first female foreign minister, several CEOs, and some expected political concessions



JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo finally unveiled his 34-member cabinet on Sunday, October 26, revealing a team that consists mostly of professionals or technocrats but also concessions to political parties that supported him. 

The highly anticipated announcement – largely seen as his first major test – was delayed for almost a week as Jokowi insisted on having his ministerial candidates vetted by the anti-corruption and anti-money laundering agencies.

The move is a first for Indonesia that was received well by the public but criticized by some political sectors who questioned whether the agencies should be determining the cabinet composition. Jokowi said on Wednesday, October 22, that he had to replace 8 of the names on his initial list because of red flags raised by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).  


“We carried out the process of choosing ministers carefully and meticulously,” Jokowi said, as unveiled his cabinet during a ceremony at the state palace.

“This is a priority because this cabinet will have to work for the next five years. We wanted the chosen people to be clean so we consulted the KPK.” (Full cabinet list available here)

Indonesia's first female foreign minister, career diplomat Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi. Photo by Adi Weda/EPA

 Women in the cabinet

In a widely praised move, Jokowi’s cabinet includes 8 female ministers – the highest number ever and with the country’s first female foreign minister, career diplomat Retno Marsudi.

Yohana Yambise, the first female Papuan to become a professor, was named minister of women’s empowerment and child protection. 

Susi Pudjiastuti, a former fish vendor who now owns charter airline Susi Air, was named minister of maritime affairs and fisheries.

Nila Anfasa Moeloek, a prominent health professional and who has been the presidential envoy for the Millennium Development Goals, has been named health minister. She was also considered by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for the post, but reportedly failed the medical test in 2009. 

Philips Vermonte, a researcher at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said in a tweet, however, that though Jokowi has double the number of women than Yudhoyono’s cabinet, it was more important to look at quality.  

Megawati figures

For instance, one of those 8 women is Puan Maharani, the daughter of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was given the new post of coordinating minister of human development and culture.

Puan is among those who were long expected to be in Jokowi’s cabinet because of their proximity to Megawati – the chairwoman of Jokowi’s party, PDI-P

Rini Soemarno, the head of the now-defunct transition team and a close Megawati confidant, was also an expected appointment and received the state-owned enterprises portfolio. She was also a president director of PT Astra Internasional and the industry and trade minister under Megawati.

Another figure close to Megawati, former army chief of staff Ryamizard Ryacudu, was selected as defense minister. And high-ranking PDI-P politician Tjahjo Kumolo was named home affairs minister. 

‘Professional’ appointments

More than half of the appointments – 19 of 34 – have professional backgrounds, largely in keeping with the cabinet structure announced in September. Jokowi’s supporters and volunteers hoped he would be able to put together a cabinet that consists solely of professionals, but this was dashed in September, when he announced he would include “professionals from political parties”. (READ: Disappointment greets Jokowi’s cabinet structure)

The professionals include Anies Baswedan, the popular rector of Paramadina University and founder of Indonesia Mengajar (Teach Indonesia), who – as expected – has been named the new minister of primary and secondary education.

For the new Coordinating Ministry for Maritime, Environment, and Natural Resources – an important post in Jokowi’s thrust towards developing Indonesia into a maritime power – the president chose Endroyono Susilo, the director of the fisheries and aquaculture resources use and conservation division of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Ignasius Jonan, the longest-serving president director of PT Kereta Api Indonesia who has been turning the state railway company around and a former Citigroup banker, is the new transportation minister. 

Rachmat Gobel, chairman of the diversified Gobel Group of companies, is the new trade minister. 

Rudiantara, the vice president director of PT Semen Gresik but a veteran executive of Indonesian telecommunications companies, is the new minister for communications and information technology.

Arief Yahya, who was CEO of PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia, was surprisingly named tourism minister. In an interview with Metro TV right after the announcement, he said his appointment was due to his expertise in marketing, and added he would employ telecommunications and social media tools to promote Indonesia.

Political concessions

Jokowi’s cabinet, as expected, includes politicians from parties included in his Great Indonesia coalition.

Nasdem Party got the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, which will be headed by Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, a former Navy chief. It also has Siti Nurbaya Bakar as minister of forestry and environment and Ferry Musildan Bayan at the Ministry of Agriculture and Spatial Planning. 

From the National Awakening Party (PKB), Jokowi named 4 ministers, including lawmakers Iman Nahrawi as the youth and sports affairs minister and Marwan Jafar as minister of development of disadvantaged regions.

Hanura got the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform for Yuddy Chrisnandi and Inustry Ministry for Saleh Husin. 

Reflecting many of the initial reactions, Muslim scholar/activist Ulil Abshar Abdalla was not enthusiastic about the list but was nonetheless hopeful.  

Others, like CSIS researcher Evan Laksamana, who said he was not encouraged with the choices for the defense and foreign affairs posts, asked people to give them a chance. 

The cabinet will be formally inaugurated on Monday, October 27. 

  – with reports from ATA, Abdul Qowi Bastian, and Agence France-Presse/



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