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Indonesia likely to change economic team JAKARTA - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's plan for a long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle has fueled expectations of changes in his government's economic team. It is likely that "one or two" ministers will be out of their current jobs after a long-promised evaluation of their performance, Yudhoyono said Wednesday, without elaborating.

Speculation has grown in recent weeks that Yudhoyono's Cabinet reshuffle will focus on Coordinating Minister for the Economy Aburizal Bakrie and Minister of Finance Jusuf Anwar. The Indonesian media has also listed Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto and Minister of Industry Andung Nitimihardja as potential candidates that might be dropped.

The economic team's status as a "target of (public) attack" make it particularly vulnerable for replacement, Salim Said, a professor at the University of Indonesia's Graduate School of Political Science, told Dow Jones Newswires. A fresh economic team would cater to public anger about the perceived mishandling of Indonesia's economic policy over the past 12 months.

Public dissatisfaction with Yudhoyono's government soared after it more than doubled the average price of fuel on Oct. 1 because the government couldn't afford to maintain heavy subsidies due to surging international oil prices. The increase hit consumers' wallets and sparked a surge in inflation.

The central bank responded last week to the inflationary pressure by raising the benchmark Bank Indonesia rate to 12.25 percent, a tightening that threatens official economic growth forecasts of 6.0 percent in 2005. But analysts caution that markets would be wary of potential replacements who lack political connections required for successful implementation of policy.

"You need people able to operate in the minefield of Indonesian politics," Song Seng Wun, vice president of the CIMB-GK Research investment firm. "What we've seen with these Cabinet reshuffles in the past is that although on paper (new ministers) may be academically and technically strong, there were questions about whether politically they could operate."

Indonesia began 2005 with some of the healthiest macroeconomic projections in the region, but soaring inflation and higher interest rates have eroded the outlook. Behind the withering economic prospects is the budget-busting impact of record-high oil prices that hover around US$60 per barrel on global markets. The high oil prices powered a currency crisis in August, driving the Indonesian rupiah to a two-year low against the U.S. dollar.

The performance of the Cabinet after its first year in office suggests "some of the ministers...are pretty lost," said Irene Cheung from ABN Amro.



Posted in Politics @ 13 November 2005 10:26 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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