Who are Indonesia's newly sworn-in ministers?

Who are Indonesia's newly sworn-in ministers?
The six newly appointed ministers of Indonesian President Joko Widodo pose for photographs after the swearing in ceremony at the presidential palace in Jakarta on August 12, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution

Darmin Nasution, who has a doctorate in economics from Paris-Sorbonne University, is a respected economist with a diversity of experience in monetary and fiscal matters as he once led the central bank (2010-2013), the tax office (2006-2009) and the former capital market and financial institutions supervisor Bappepam-LK (2005-2006).

Originally from Tapanuli, North Sumatra, he was known as a strong thinker behind Bank Indonesia's monetary policies from 2010 to 2013. The 66-year-old lowered Indonesia's benchmark interest rate gradually to the lowest level ever in the country's history when he was in power at the central bank.

The chairman of the Indonesian Economists Association (ISEI) was also among the initiators of the Financial Services Authority (OJK), which took away the banking supervision function of BI in 2013. But Darmin later regretted the separation as it complicated macro-prudential policy setting and supervision by placing these issues under two different agencies.

Darmin, a close aide of former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati who is now the managing director of the Washington-based World Bank, is also the one who began capping single ownership in domestic banks by 40 per cent and required exporters and debtors to bring back Indonesia-based banks' funds parked overseas, which irked oil and gas companies claiming the rule overlaped with another law.

He also froze permits of Citibank Indonesia to open new branches and acquire new wealth management clients.

Under his leadership at BI, the central bank also issued regulations that aimed to avoid a property bubble and the booming auto and motorcycle loans as it tightened the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, meaning that down payment requirements for borrowers increased. Banks were also required for the first time to allocate 20 per cent of their lending portfolio for micro, small and medium enterprises in phases until 2018.

During his term at the Finance Ministry's directorate general of taxation, the tax office rolled out a landmark policy called the "sunset policy" that writes off tax fines in exchange for taxpayers settling their previously unreported obligations. The policy drew in trillions of rupiah to help lift state revenues.

Last year, Darmin had been questioned as a witness as part of the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) investigation into the high-profile tax scandal involving the nation's third largest lender, Bank Central Asia (BCA). He served as tax office chief when probes into the high-profile tax graft case of former tax officer Gayus H. Tambunan were in the spotlight.

Trade Minister Thomas Lembong

Thomas Trikasih Lembong, nicknamed Tom Lembong, may be the least known by the public of the six new names. However, he has actually been doing behind-the-scenes work for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, being the economic adviser.

Thomas, 43, co-founded a Singapore-based private equity firm called Quvat Management Pte Ltd. in 2005 with Soegeng Wibowo and Bratanata Perdana, the latter of whom succeeded Thomas as the president commissioner of publicly listed cinema operator PT Graha Layar Prima, operates the Blitzmegaplex cinema chain.

Quvat prefers to invest in small to midsized companies in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, specialising in growth capital and buyout investments.

"We are really quite expert in lending and fixed income. Investing in distressed bonds can make you a lot of money," Thomas explained in an interview with the Forbes Indonesia magazine, as his company invests in what others think is risky but what the Quvat co-founders believe has a low chance of default.

During the 2008 global financial crisis, for instance, the firm bought Garuda Indonesia bonds paying 23 per cent and state electricity firm PLN bonds offering 18 per cent.

Thomas, who received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1994, majoring in architecture and urban design, began his career in the equity division of Morgan Stanley Pte Ltd. (1995-1996) and later worked as an investment banker at Deutsche Securities Indonesia (1999-2000).

Afterward, he led the asset management investment (AMI) division at the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (BPPN) from 2000 to 2002 - following the massive 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis that left many local banks liquidated - tasked with managing the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) big obligor funds, including the Sinar Mas Group.

Thomas was selected in 2008 as the Young Global Leader (YGL) of the World Economic Forum.

National Development Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil

Sofyan Djalil was previously the coordinating economic minister of Jokowi's initial Cabinet, before being reshuffled to lead the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) - a government agency at a ministerial level - to replace Andrinof Chaniago.

Born in Perlak, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, on Sept. 23, 1953, he graduated from the University of Indonesia's (UI) law department, majoring in business law, in 1984. He then went to Tufts University, near Boston, United States, to get two master's degrees, one in public policy (1989) and the other in international economic relations (1991). Sofyan got his PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1993.

Sofyan, a father of four, served as state-owned enterprises minister from 2007 to 2009 during former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's first tenure along with Jusuf Kalla, vice president at the time, who is known as a close ally of Sofyan's. He was also communications and information minister from 2004 to 2005.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli

Rizal Ramli was most notable for his role as the coordinating economic minister between 2000 and 2001 and then finance minister in 2001 under the leadership of former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, just as the country was recovering from the hard-hitting 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis.

He was also chairman of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) in 2000 and had been known to represent the local economic think-thank organisation, the Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), which hosts notable economists such as Imam Sugema, Aviliani and others.

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