Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Widjojo to head new economic team

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid announced Wednesday that he's planning to create a team of economic experts to support his economic ministers.

Abdurrahman said that the new unofficial team will be headed by Widjojo Nitisastro, the chief economic adviser of former president Soeharto and one of the country's economic architects in the 1970s.

"We'll try to form a team ... to support Kwik Kian Gie (and his) economic team," he told a press conference referring to the Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Kwik Kian Gie.

Abdurrahman dismissed fears that the new economic team would be overlapping with a similar team formed recently including the National Economic Council (DEN) and the National Business Development Council (DPUN).

He pointed out that DEN's charter was to give second opinions to the President on economic issues, while DPUN's focus is to help the business sector to create one million jobs this year.

He said that the Widjojo-led team would include Sri Mulyani, a noted economist and secretary general of DEN; Ali Markus of DPUN, and another noted economist Faisal Basri, who is also a senior executive of the National Mandate Party (PAN).

The plan to form the new economic team is made amid speculation of increasing quarreling among economic ministers, DEN and DPUN people, which some fear may become a hindrance to efforts to revive the ailing economy.

The government has been under strong criticism for its languor in restructuring the country's banking and real sector.

The government, which effectively controls most of the country's economic assets, apparently doesn't have a shared vision of what to do with those assets.

Widjojo is a U.S. trained economist and is popularly known here as one of the so-called "Berkeley Mafia." Widjojo has extensive experience in coordinating functions.(rei/prb)