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Indonesia president set to shuffle cabinet to speed up economic reform

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo is likely to reshuffle his cabinet after the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in June or July to strengthen his team, a cabinet member said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's incumbent presidential candidate Joko Widodo reacts as he speaks during a campaign rally at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo

Widodo won a second term in office in an April 17 election, based on sample counts by private pollsters, with official results due by May 22 and the winner sworn into office in October.

In an interview with Tempo newspaper last month, Widodo said he was considering reshuffling his cabinet before he is sworn in for a second five-year term. He did not say when.

Thomas Lembong, who heads Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board, said he expected Widodo to shake up his cabinet twice this year, once after the Eid al-Fitr festival, which falls in early June, and again after his inauguration.

“I think a phase one or an initial preparatory stage of cabinet restructuring, reshuffle, there is a very strong chance of that, as far as I know, circa June-July,” Lembong told a briefing hosted by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

A “broad and deep” reshuffle that will overhaul the entire cabinet, intended to accelerate economic reforms and tackle macroeconomic challenges, may come after October’s inauguration, Lembong said.

The aim is to introduce a “fairly meaningful improvement in the professionalism of the cabinet”, he added.

Speculation about a reshuffle has been rife among politicians and government officials even before the elections, with some suggesting the prospect of some ministers in charge of economic portfolios being replaced.

Financial analysts say they are closely watching Widodo’s choices, including whether respected Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati will stay on.

Widodo would be forced to replace ministers if Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) names any cabinet members suspects in graft cases, Lembong said.

Several ministers have become embroiled in legal cases though have not been made suspects.

Religious Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin has been questioned by the KPK and his office raided by investigators, after the agency named a prominent Islamist politician in Widodo’s coalition a suspect in a bribery case to get people high-ranking jobs at Saifuddin’s ministry.

The KPK also raided the residence and office of Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita last month to follow up allegations by a parliament member the minister funnelled funds to him.

Both ministers have denied any wrongdoing.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi declined to comment on the prospect of an imminent reshuffle, but said the president typically changed a minister’s post based on performance or if someone is named a suspect in a legal case.

Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie