Indonesian president sacks trade minister after palm oil export uproar


JAKARTA, June 15 (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, sacking the trade minister and announcing a replacement following controversy over a series of policy reversals on palm oil exports .

Zulkifli Hasan, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and former forestry minister, was sworn in as the country’s new commerce minister, among other changes.

Former incumbent Muhammad Lutfi oversaw an about-face on policies aimed at containing a spike in domestic cooking oil prices, which included a ban on palm oil shipments from the world’s largest exporter. Read more

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The three-week export ban sent shockwaves through global markets and led to a series of arrests for alleged corruption before it was lifted on May 23.

The president, popularly known as Jokowi, said Zulkifli’s “long track record” and “on-the-ground experience” gave him confidence he would solve problems.

The new minister pledged after his appointment to “quickly address issues of availability and affordability of cooking oil in particular”.

However, his appointment drew mixed reactions from analysts.

Bhima Yudhistira, director of the Center for Economic and Legal Studies (CELIOS), said he was disappointed that the president was meeting the needs of his coalition rather than improving the performance of his government.

“If Jokowi wants to leave his legacy, the most important thing is to appoint a trade minister with professional training, and there are many options. Why choose a political party president?”

The Association of Traditional Market Traders (IKAPPI) praised the new minister, saying there were complex issues he needed to address.

“We want to say welcome to the jungle. This wilderness needs to be cleaned up and we hope (the minister) will side with traditional market traders, support SMEs and strengthen domestic trade,” the group said in a statement. .

Jokowi also announced changes to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Use Planning, appointing former armed forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto, who he said will be tasked with resolving land disputes, particularly over land disputes. concerns the Nusantara New Capital Project in East Kalimantan.

The president also inaugurated three deputy ministers, in the ministries of manpower, regional planning and the interior.

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Written by Kate Lamb; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe, Fransiska Nangoy and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies, Kanupriya Kapoor and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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