Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Plan to create new economics advisory team hailed

JAKARTA (JP): Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry Kwik Kian Gie welcomed on Friday President Abdurrahman Wahid's plan to form a new economics advisory team to support economics ministers.

Kwik said the new team was not designed to compete with his office, but instead to help him formulate economic policy to solve the country's economic crisis.

"I'm happy. I have no objections," Kwik told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar.

Abdurrahman announced on Wednesday that he planned to form an informal economics advisory team to complement the existing National Economic Council (DEN) and the National Business Development Council (DPUN).

DEN comprises economists, while DPUN's members are businessmen.

DEN advises the President on economic matters and is based on economic theoretical thinking, while DPUN advises from a businessman's point of view.

And the new team would bridge the gap between the two councils as they sometimes gave contradictory advice, Abdurrahman said.

The new advisory team will be headed by senior economist Widjojo Nitisastro, a former cabinet member and chief economic adviser of former authoritarian president Soeharto.

Economist Sri Mulyani Indrawati from the University of Indonesia will become its secretary-general, while outspoken economist Faisal Basri, also from the University of Indonesia, and businessman Alim Markus of the Maspion Group will be members.

Sri Mulyani is also DEN's secretary-general; Faisal is an executive of the National Mandate Party (PAN); while Alim is a close friend of Abdurrahman's and also a member of DPUN.

Kwik dismissed concern about Widjojo's past relations with Soeharto, pointing out that the U.S.-trained economist was savvy and had a strong commitment to developing the country.

"He's a good economist," he said, adding that even without the new team, Widjojo had already been giving economic advice to Abdurrahman.

Kwik also dismissed suggestions that the new team was envisioned because of increasing quarrels among the Cabinet's economics ministers.

Separately, Sri Mulyani declined to comment on the plan, claiming that she only learned of it on Friday.

But she said that the plan to create the new economics advisory team reflected the President's strong determination to put economics programs at the top of his administration's list of priorities in the coming days.

Sri also said the pressing issue for the government now was to proceed quickly with its bank and corporate sector restructuring programs.

"The problem is not with communications, but with the execution (of the program)," she said.

Meanwhile, University of Gadjahmada economist Sri Adiningsih said that the new team should help the economics ministers, and not bypass them.

"Let's hope the new team will not become a shadow cabinet," she said. (rei/bkm)