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Jokowi's cabinet to be lean and mean

Publication Date : 28-08-2014


It will be at least a month before president-elect Joko Widodo announces his Cabinet line-up, but one thing is clear: There will be fewer posts.

Joko has said he wants a leaner team, packed with professionals, and his advisers expect the number of ministries to be cut from the current 34 to about 27.
Bureaucrats overseeing the public sector agree with the move.

Administrative reform minister Azwar Abubakar yesterday handed Joko his ministry's recommendations on a slimmer Cabinet, where several ministries would be merged.

Earlier this month, the National Institute for Public Administration was more radical, suggesting a trim to 20 to 24 ministries.

But this seems too drastic a cut, and Joko and his advisers are likely to make more gradual changes for now, amid demands from coalition allies and others.

Hasto Kristiyanto, a deputy in Joko's transition team that will make suggestions on an optimal Cabinet size and identify key priorities for the administration, said on Tuesday that the team "would not be bound by labels that (the Cabinet) is too lean or too fat". What is key is that the end result contributes to more effective government, he told reporters.

Paramadina University political scientist Djayadi Hanan, speaking to The Straits Times, said: "There is a need for a work-oriented Cabinet but the reality is Joko has to accommodate representation from various parties."

He said this balance between professionalism and political accommodation is needed "to ensure the government is stable enough to prevent obstruction from Parliament".

Joko is keen to avoid being hamstrung by the need to allocate coalition partners a certain share of Cabinet seats, as the outgoing government has done, resulting in a team where professional qualifications play second fiddle to political support, said observers.

He has also said he does not want ministers to hold leadership posts in political parties, so they can focus on their ministerial duties.

But he has moderated his expectations in the face of some pushback from allies, and told The Straits Times last week that professionals can be technocrats or party members, so long as they are qualified for the job.

His advisers said some of the changes are a merger of the trade and industry ministries, and the forestry and environment ministries. Some functions of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries could also be merged with the Agriculture Ministry into a new ministry for food security, a key part of his campaign platform.

But Hendrawan Supratikno, an MP from Mr Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, said: "Other options are also available, like reducing the number of vice-ministers," he added.

While the selection of ministers will pick up pace only next month, ministerial hopefuls have already stepped forward.

At least four groups of volunteers have surfaced to conduct online polls and get public feedback on possible candidates. Aspiring ministers have even submitted their curriculum vitae to the transition team. These moves, while criticised, have been useful in a way: public criticism of several figures with questionable track records suggest they may not be part of the new administration.

Dr Djayadi said key ministries like finance, education and health should be staffed by technocrats and those who can carry out Joko's reform agenda.

He said the ideal compromise would be for all ministers, party picks or otherwise, to be chosen on the same basis of capability and track record.
"This way, the ministers they get will be those that can work."

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