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Disjointed cabinet

Jakarta Post Editorial - January 28, 2024

Jakarta – It's never a good sign when one of the most respected ministers in the cabinet, who many considered as the steady hand that guided the Indonesian economy through some of the most turbulent times in the country's history, is rumored to be planning her exit.

It's even worse if the rumored departure is motivated by political differences between the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and her colleagues in the cabinet, if not the President himself.

Of course, we're talking about Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati who, as many media outlets have reported, is on her way out.

Speculation over her exit began to swirl only days after the second presidential debate on Jan. 7, when presidential front-runner Prabowo Subianto, the Gerindra Party chair and defense minister, inadvertently exposed a rift within the cabinet.

Prabowo said in the debate that he could have done a better job of modernizing the country's weaponry had it not been for Sri Mulyani, whom he claimed had blocked his proposal to buy more arms from foreign vendors.

And then there's the media coverage on her policy, if not political, differences with the President.

Among these are reports of her concern over a potential ethical breach related to the President's efforts to influence the outcome of this year's presidential election.

Sri Mulyani is also reportedly unhappy with the government's plan to continue social assistance disbursements, as this will not only burden the state budget more but also be prone to politicization ahead of the election.

The Finance Ministry has issued a statement denying the rumor, saying that the minister "continues to carry out her duties in managing state finances".

Under normal circumstances, news on an influential finance minister heading for the exit should be enough to send the market tumbling and investors scurrying, but in a political year rife with so many surprises, the country seems to be keeping calm and carrying on.

The news on Sri Mulyani's possible resignation had barely subsided when earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD, who is running for vice president alongside Ganjar Pranowo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), dropped the bombshell that he would soon be heading out the door also.

Although Mahfud's departure was generally expected, especially after he aired some of the government's dirty laundry on the campaign trail and during the election debates, it only adds to the sense of foreboding in the lead-up to the Feb. 14 polls.

And with the PDI-P allegedly planning to withdraw all of its ministers from the cabinet, the public might certainly ask if President Jokowi, who is busy rustling up support for Prabowo and running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, a First Son, can effectively govern until his second and final term ends in October.

With eight months left for the Jokowi administration, yet with so many differences among its ministers, asking whether it can possibly govern effectively is a legitimate question.

Compounding the problem is that the key ministers remaining in the cabinet have high stakes in the presidential election, and we can expect them to take steps, even make policies, that are geared toward benefiting one candidate.

What if all the chatter over the social aid program, infrastructure developments and the initiative to expedite mineral processing for export, things that still bear some semblance to government policies, are actually pork barrel politics?

Governing is indeed difficult during an election year, but we deserve much better than a disjointed cabinet.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/01/28/disjointed-cabinet.htm