Tuesday, August 30, 2005

VP said No to cabinet shakeup

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said there is no need for a cabinet shakeup to respond the current economic crisis in the country.

“No, Not Yet. I don’t think the problem is the cabinet. The problem is with oil price and rupiah value,” he said as quoted by major newspaper Kompas today.

Jusuf was commenting on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s statement signaling a cabinet reshuffle in two months period to improve government’s performance in handling economic crisis. Yudhoyono didn't say that explicitly as he only said that he would review his cabinet. But people interpret this as a respond to a cabinet shakeup demand.

As oil price has reached US$70 per barrel that put state budget under heavy pressure to finance fuel subsidies, Indonesian rupiah has depreciated 11.27% against greenback since early August to reach its lowest level in four years while stock market significantly dropped by 16.6% in the last three weeks.

VP’s resistance is at odd with most of politicians in the country demanding a major overhaul in the cabinet, especially the economic team led by minister Aburizal Bakrie. Almost all political parties are asking for cabinet shakeup. Aburizal, a businessman and key ally of Jusuf Kalla both in cabinet and Golkar Party (the largest political party in Indonesia where Jusuf is the chairman) is on top of the list of ministers that should be replaced.

Others including finance minister Jusuf Anwar and national development plan minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati. Both Jusuf and Sri Mulyani were former executives at International Monetary Fund (IMF). Energy minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro also in the list due to decreasing oil and gas sector.

VP’s resistance for a cabinet shakeup is understandable as that would be a no-confidence vote on his leadership in economic affairs. During the presidential campaign last year, Jusuf and Yudhoyono is said to agree on economic affairs as VP’s portfolio while President take care politics, security, and social affairs.

Commenting on VP’s resistance, Hidayat Nur Wahid, People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR, the highest constitutional body in Indonesia) speaker said a cabinet reshuffle is President’s prerogative right. “That’s why I believe president will follow this up,” he said.

Doubts remain though. “Yudhoyono got to be firm and decisive this time. Else he would still be regarded as a weak leader,” said a political analyst.

Conflict of statements regarding economic policy is intensified recently when President Yudhoyono said government is postponing fuel price hike to early 2006 while VP Jusuf Kalla said previously that new fuel price would be implemented sooner than October 2005 to ease pressure on state budget.

Cracks also seen at Golkar Party. While Jusuf rejected reshuffle, other executives strongly supported the idea. As quoted by Bisnis Indonesia today, deputy House of Representative (DPR) speaker Zainal Maarif (from Golkar) explicitly asked Yudhoyono to replace Aburizal. "House leaders agree to invite an emergency meeting this week to discuss the situation," he said.

Yudhi Chrisnandi, also a Golkar executive said Aburizal is incapable and should be replaced.

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