Friday, April 15, 2005

Harvard alumni as President’s economic advisor

Harvard-educated economist Dr Sjahrir has been appointed as economic advisor for president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The chairman of New Indonesia United Party, summoned yesterday by the president, will give advise on economic implementation strategy for the cabinet including poverty eradication, employment, and investment.

Dr Sjahrir, owner and CEO of Sjahrir Securities, admitted his tasks will be, among others, settlement of disputes with Cemex Asia Holding (regarding PT Semen Gresik Tbk) and Karaha Bodas Company (US-affiliated company).

There were speculations that Sjahrir’s junior like Dr Muhammad Chatib Basri, noted economist from University of Indonesia, will also be appointed as president’s advisor on economic policy.

Sjahrir is known for his friendship with some noted businessmen like Peter F Gontha (former key figure in Bimantara Group led by Soeharto’s son Bambang Trihatmodjo) or Aburizal Bakrie (chairman and owner of Bakrie Group), now the chief economy minister.

Yudhoyono’s cabinet is heavily filled with US-graduated ministers. At least 10 ministers are US-graduated. They are Andung Nitimihardja (minister for industry, University of Pittsburgh), Sri Mulyani (national planning, Illinois), Sofyan Djalil (IT & multimedia, Tufts), Purnomo Yusgiantoro (mining & energy, Colorado School of Mines), Alwi Shihab (coordinating minister for social affairs, Temple and Harvard), Mari Elka Pangestu (trade, UC Davis), Bambang Sudibyo (education, Kentucky), Jusuf Anwar (finance, Vanderbilt), Hassan Wirayudha (foreign affairs, Harvard and Virginia).

It is not clear whether the president will establish National Economic Council, one of his presidential campaign plans. Some economists argued against such council since it would overlap with cabinet portfolios. Abdurrahman Wahid established such council in 1999 led by senior economist Prof Emil Salim (UC Berkeley-graduated) where Sri Mulyani was the secretary of the council. But Wahid’s successor, Megawati, preferred to had informal economic advisors such as senior economist Frans Seda.

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