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Indonesia's Prabowo mulls bigger Cabinet under his presidency, including one ministry overseeing a free lunch initiative

Channel News Asia - May 8, 2024

Jakarta – Indonesia's President-elect Prabowo Subianto is said to be contemplating a significantly bigger Cabinet with the expansion of ministries in his upcoming administration, according to reports by the local media.

Mr Prabowo and his Vice-President-elect, Mr Gibran Rakabuming Raka, are said to be planning for a Cabinet which will see an increase in the number of ministries from the existing 34 to over 40. Some observers noted that a bigger Cabinet is part of Mr Prabowo's attempt to facilitate his incoming government's ability to fulfil its election promises, including the provision of a free lunch initiative.

When asked by the media about talks of a bigger administration, Mr Gibran – who is the current Mayor of Solo and son of outgoing President Joko Widodo – said that the matter is still not settled and pending consideration by political parties in Mr Prabowo's coalition.

The coalition – which supported Mr Prabowo's bid for the presidency – include his own Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the Democratic Party, Golkar, and the National Mandate Party (PAN). Since he won the election, two other parties – namely the National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) – have showed signs of joining Mr Prabowo's governing coalition.

"This is still under discussion, still being refined. Let's wait," said Mr Gibran at Solo City Hall on Tuesday (May 7), as reported by Kompas.

Among the proposed new ministries, according to Mr Gibran, include one specially dedicated to managing the free lunch program as promised by the duo during the February presidential election.

Mr Gibran said that the programme requires a dedicated ministry in view of the complexity involved in running it.

"The programme involves a large budget as the distribution, logistics and monitoring of it would not be easy. It needs further discussion," Mr Gibran said.

The free lunch programme has been the centrepiece of the pair's nationwide campaigning prior to the Feb 14 Presidential Election. Mr Prabowo and Mr Gibran won 59 percent of the votes and has been officially declared the winner of the election by Indonesia's General Elections Commission.

Both Mr Prabowo and Mr Gibran will take their oath of office as the new president and vice-president respectively on Oct 20.

Mr Gibran on Tuesday stressed that the Prabowo administration is committed to ensure the effectiveness of the free lunch programme and its impact on school children. He, however, cautioned patience among the public on the issue and whether it will involve the formation of additional ministries.

Gerindra also did not deny the possibility of a larger Cabinet in the incoming administration with the appointment of additional ministerial portfolios.

Vice-chairman of Gerindra Mr Habiburokhman said the idea of a larger Cabinet appears reasonable owing to Indonesia being a large country.

"In the context of a country, a large number means big, for me, it's good, our country is a big country. Our challenges are big, our targets are big," said Mr Habiburokhman on May 6.

Meanwhile, outgoing President Widodo has remained mum on the issue, except to say that it is a matter to be decided by the incoming president and vice-president.

"(The question about) the future Cabinet should be asked to the president-elect," Mr Widodo said on Tuesday while denying rumours that he might have given advice to Mr Prabowo on the issue.

Speculation surrounding the expanded Cabinet of the upcoming government has drawn concerns from some political figures, including Mr Prabowo's former rival Anies Baswedan.

Mr Anies was quoted by CNN Indonesia as saying that any expansion of the Cabinet must adhere to existing laws. According to the current regulation, the total number of ministries should be capped at 34.

Echoing Mr Anies's sentiments, former Vice-President Jusuf Kalla also cautioned against the "politicisation" of expanded ministerial positions in the Cabinet. He instead urged for a greater focus to be given on the implementation of government programmes and not in the number of Cabinet positions.

Mr Jusuf added that as talks of an expanded administration appear to be a largely political move, he hoped that the provision of additional ministerial positions was not only for the purpose of accommodating the interests of Mr Prabowo's supporters.

"Government's needs should be the one to dictate ministerial appointments. Don't be fixated on numbers; give more priority to programmes," said Mr Yusuf as quoted by Metrotvnews.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/indonesia-prabowo-subianto-gibran-rakabuming-raka-cabinet-ministers-free-lunch-432111