Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, appointing a new trade minister following controversy over a series of policy flip-flops on palm oil exports.
In an official ceremony at the state palace the president inaugurated Zukifli Hasan, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and a former forestry minister as the country's next trade minister, among other changes.
The reshuffle comes after former trade minister Muhammad Lutfi faced political pressure over policy efforts to contain a surge in domestic cooking oil prices, which included a shock ban on palm oil shipments from the world's biggest exporter.
Minister Lutfi had blamed a "palm oil mafia" for undermining efforts to contain cooking oil prices after bringing in a surprise ban on palm oil exports in April.
The three-week export ban, lifted on May 23, sent shockwaves through global markets and led to a series of arrests for alleged corruption after the attorney general launched an investigation.
"He (Hasan) will be good as the trade minister. Right now for food problems, the people need someone experienced, someone who goes to work on the ground directly," Jokowi told reporters.
The new minister said his first priority would be to "immediately" fix the cooking oil crisis plaguing Indonesia's 270 million people, many of whom rely on the commodity for food and business.
Lutfi, who once served as Indonesia's envoy to Japan, had blamed a "palm oil mafia" for stymieing efforts to bring cooking oil prices down.
Indonesia produces about 60 percent of the world's palm oil, which is used in products from chocolate spreads to cosmetics, with one-third consumed by its domestic market.
The cabinet revamp came as Widodo tries to respond to a series of issues in Southeast Asia's biggest economy with domestic shortages of edible cooking oil the most pressing, experts said.
"It's okay to replace the players during injury time as long as it is aimed for better performance and not for political consolidation," Hendri Satrio, a political analyst from Paramadina University told AFP.
A survey published Monday by pollster Charta Politika on Monday found nearly two-thirds of respondents supported Jokowi reshuffling his cabinet.
President Jokowi is currently serving out his second term. He also announced changes to the agrarian and spatial planning ministry, appointing former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief, Hadi Tjahjanto.
He also inaugurated three deputy ministers to the ministries of manpower, spatial planning, and home affairs.