Wed, 05 Apr 2000

President urged to reshuffle economic ministers

JAKARTA (JP): The clamor is growing for President Abdurrahman Wahid to fire his economic ministers amid public impatience over their perceived inability to pull the country out of the economic crisis.

Deputy executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) J. Kristiadi said on Monday the President, who is nicknamed Gus Dur, should reshuffle his economic lineup.

"The President should soon 'overhaul' his ministers because people who have suffered for so long are growing impatient," Kristiadi said at a news conference on the six-month-old government's performance.

"Gus Dur actually wanted to reshuffle the ministers but he expected public support."

He said new ministers should be competent, free from vested interests, understand the gravity of the country's problems and be willing to suffer the people's hardships.

The government's performance did not indicate an understanding of the momentous problems facing the country, he said, pointing to turmoil caused by issues of rice prices, sugar imports, proposed fuel price hikes and hefty allowance increases for high- ranking civil servants.

He said the problems indicated cooperation and coordination among the ministers was weak.

The public did not understand the Cabinet's gradual approach to effecting recovery, he warned.

"Consequently, people are impatient and easily drawn into mass disturbances," Kristiadi said.

The center's executive director, Hadi Soesastro, said the ministers' lacked vision.

"I agree with a reshuffle, but not only the ministers, the system should also be improved," said the noted economist.

He also faulted the ministers for sluggishness, such as in the slow application of the letter of intent with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung also criticized the President's economic team last week, saying they lacked a comprehensive economic vision.

He said it caused the postponement of an IMF loan.

Many analysts believe Abdurrahman's establishment of economic councils is an indicator of his lack of confidence in his economic ministers.


Chairman of the National Business Recovery Council (DPUN) Sofjan Wanandi decried as premature the calls for a reshuffle.

"It is not fair to judge the performance of a minister or a Cabinet only five months old. The economic team of ministers consists of personnel from various political parties. They need time to consolidate. Let us give them more time. It's too early to judge their performance," Sofjan said in Surabaya on Monday.

He said there was no immediate plan for a Cabinet reshuffle.

"What I heard is the President is giving the ministers' time while he evaluates their performance."

Sofjan, who also heads the Gemala Group, predicted that foreign investors would return by year's end or early next year.

"They are just skeptical about law and order in Indonesia. Political stability, legal certainty are everything to them. They are in a wait-and-see position."

To deal with labor-related problems, a meeting between DPUN, the Ministry of Manpower, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and 20 labor unions will be held at the State Palace on Wednesday, Sofjan said.

"We will discuss economic and labor-related problems. We have to think about 36 million members of the work force who remain jobless.

"The President will witness the meeting. Business recovery and political stability need support, especially the workers with their various demands." (jun/nur/sur)