Pointless Cabinet Reshuffle
Without more fundamental changes to his development strategy, President Jokowi’s replacement of a number of ministers will be for nothing.
PRESIDENT Joko Widodo’s decision to reshuffle his cabinet came too late. The price that the public will have to pay as a result of the President’s tardiness in correcting his own decisions when appointing the wrong people to the cabinet will be very high.
If health minister Terawan Agus Putranto had been replaced immediately after he was proven unable to deal with the initial wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government program to control the spread of the pandemic would now be in far better shape. At the very least the people are now relieved because the top job at the ministry of health is no longer held by a person who underplays the danger of the pandemic.
Supplies of vaccine ready to be used to develop herd immunity would also be more plentiful. We know that the delay in Terawan agreeing to procure Covid-19 vaccines a few months ago left the government scrambling to seek stocks from a number of global pharmaceutical companies.
And the corruption cases that struck the ministry of social affairs and the ministry of maritime affairs and fisheries did not suddenly appear from nowhere. The irregularities in the lobster larvae export policy launched by Edhy Prabowo were the subject of frequent reports months before he was detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission. The same is true for the chaos over the supply of social aid packages by Juliari Peter Batubara in the social affairs ministry.
The lack of preparedness of Fachrul Razi to respond to the expansion of radical Islamic groups, and also the lack of initiative from the religious affairs minister to preserve interreligious tolerance have also long being the subject of complaints from the public. But President Jokowi only replaced his aide when tensions between religious groups were aggravated again after the return of Islam Defenders Front founder Rizieq Shihab from Saudi Arabia at the beginning of November.
There have been rumblings of dissatisfaction from Jokowi over the performance of his cabinet since June. Three months after the start of the pandemic, a number of ministers appeared uncertain and non-responsive when taking decisions. The open reprimand from the President turns out not to have led to any improvements
It must be said that the common cause of all of this is Jokowi himself. Leading a cabinet in his second term, he failed to free himself of pressure from political parties. Without the burden of having to seek reelection for a third term, he had far more room for maneuver. The inclusion in the cabinet of a number of people who were problematic but who enjoyed support of political parties showed the weakness of Jokowi taking decisions. In the future, any president will have more independence if the Constitutional Court decides to remove the electoral threshold requirement for presidential candidates.
Although Jokowi’s decision to replace a number of ministers may improve the effectiveness of some government programs, this reshuffle will not have a major impact in the long-term. As long as the direction of the nation’s development is not reevaluated, a number of public complaints will not be addressed.
For the last six years, Jokowi has pushed the dominant role of the state in development, which has resulted in increasing numbers of human rights abuses and environmental damage. We have lost the role of the state as a fair referee for economic matters and a protector of the most vulnerable people. Under Jokowi, the state has turned into an extension of the arm of those in power and the wealthy. This reshuffle will not change this bitter reality.