Indonesia finance minister says not being pushed out of job

JAKARTA Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:38am EST

Indonesian Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo leaves the presidential compound after attending a meeting in Jakarta February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Supri

Indonesian Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo leaves the presidential compound after attending a meeting in Jakarta February 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Supri

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's finance minister denied on Thursday that he was being pushed out his job, dismissing speculation that he was being shifted to the post of central bank governor because he had crossed swords with politically powerful businessmen.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week unexpectedly nominated Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo to replace Darmin Nasution, whose term as Bank Indonesia governor ends in May.

There has been no clear explanation from the presidential palace why either man is moving from his current job, nor who would be the new finance minister if Martowardojo is approved by parliament to head Bank Indonesia.

Members of parliament will debate Martowardojo's candidacy later next month, and some have questioned his suitability for the job.

Asked if he had been the victim of vested political or business interests, the finance minister said "No".

"(There was) no political pressure," Martowardojo told reporters on the sidelines of a conference. "It is an honor to be nominated as central bank governor."

FOR AND AGAINST

Earlier, Vice President Boediono, himself a former central bank governor, told Reuters that Bank Indonesia needed a safe pair of hands to replace the outgoing governor.

Martowardojo, 57, took over as finance minister in 2010 to oversee one of the world's fastest growing economies and before that headed the biggest state-controlled bank, Bank Mandiri.

The uncertainty over who will lead Bank Indonesia has caused little concern in the financial markets. Indonesia's benchmark stock index is set to close at a record high for the second consecutive day, up 1.3 percent at 4,777.86 in late trading on Thursday.

A parliamentary commission has the final say over who heads the central bank. One commission member said Martowardojo, a career banker, lacked macro-economic expertise and another that there were doubts over his integrity.

But the chairman of the commission, Emir Moeis, has said he was in favor of the finance minister's switch to the central bank.

There has been speculation that Martowardojo was being pushed from the cabinet because of his very public opposition to two major issues involving influential businessmen.

One relates to his insistence that the central government buy a stake in a gold mining company, an issue which involves the Bakrie family. One of the Bakrie brothers is the Golkar Party's presidential candidate.

Another concerns a project to build a bridge linking the islands of Java and Sumatra. Martowardojo has opposed the project, which is headed by wealthy businessman Tommy Winata, in its current form.

(Reporting by Neil Chatterjee; Writing by Randy Fabi and Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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