Fri, 18 Aug 2000

Observers stress need for professional Cabinet

JAKARTA (JP): Observers have emphasized the need to recruit professionals, instead of people linked to political parties, for the new Cabinet.

Economist Sri Adiningsih from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University said the government was facing more daunting tasks in the economic field as the public and market expect better performance of the government.

"The next revamped Cabinet should comprise professionals, particularly those who will make up the economic team. More professionals will reduce a potential conflict of interest within the administration," she told The Jakarta Post recently.

"The fact that the government is managing huge assets tends to attract a conflict of interest. If that happens, it will surely hinder efforts to form an effective government."

President Abdurrahman Wahid announced earlier that 60 percent of the seats in the Cabinet would be filled by professionals while the remaining would be given to political parties.

Many have aired the demand that professionals should hold strategic posts, such as in the economy, finance and industry, legal affairs and political and security affairs.

Adiningsih suggested the government should also revamp the second line of government posts under the ministers in a bid to keep the bureaucracy clear of political contamination.

"Reshuffling the Cabinet isn't enough to restore public and market trust in the government. It should also be followed by a further reshuffle of the lower posts under the ministries," she said.

She said many second-level posts, such as ministers' advisory teams and directorate generals, were occupied by people who were affiliated with political parties or linked to the New Order regime.

"During the ten months of Abdurrahman's administration, the promotion of officials to secondary posts was frequently intervened by political parties and leaders. Thus, reshuffling the bureaucracy is imperative to rebuild trust in the government," she said.

The mounting demand for a professional Cabinet was affirmed by the latest survey conducted by Kompas daily, which revealed that nearly half the respondents wanted professionals to hold all the posts in the next Cabinet.

Didiek J. Rachbini, a researcher at the Institute of Development and Finance (INDEF), echoed those calling for a professional Cabinet, although he did not care about the political background of the ministerial candidates.

"A perception that members of political parties are not professional is, of course, wrong. The most important thing is that a Cabinet member has a commitment to improve the government's performance," he said.

A rejection to include politicians in the Cabinet was aired by the University of Indonesia's Center for Popular Economy Development (LPEM) researcher, M. Ikhsan.

"The Cabinet needs people who are able and willing to work hard. The ministers must also have no vested interests while carrying out their mission to speed up our economic recovery," he told Antara.

"Economic ministers must be professional because the field is related to technical matters. Politicians can do nothing there."

Ikhsan, however, acknowledged that some politicians fit the bill, but they should quit from their political organizations once they join the Cabinet.

"They should leave their parties behind and be transparent when it comes to the budget in a bid to prevent them from misusing it for the interest of their parties," he said.

Meanwhile, a researcher at the Center for Information and Development Studies (CIDES), Umar Juoro, underscored the market's acceptance of economic ministers.

"Whoever the ministers are, they must obtain political support from the House of Representatives (DPR) and be accepted by the market," he said.

He also emphasized the importance of reorganizing the economic ministries to increase efficiency.

"It's important, for instance, to unify the ministries of public works, settlement and regional development and communication.

"We must also dissolve the state minister of investment and state enterprises development office. The job to manage state enterprises must be returned to the finance minister, while the investment section can be handled by the tourism minister," Umar said. (44/nvn)