Pacific Money | Economy | Southeast Asia
Jokowi’s appointment of his opponent from the 2019 presidential election seems to be pushed by a shrewd political calculation.
Stupas at Borobudur Temple, a serious tourism vacation spot in Indonesia.
Credit: Flickr/Noud W.
When Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled the governing cupboard for his second time period in October 2019 it was met with controversy. The cupboard featured many appointments which appeared transactional in nature, with Jokowi perceived as rewarding highly effective political, enterprise, and navy figures who had backed him within the election or whose help he wanted within the legislature. The most high-profile appointment was that of Prabowo Subianto, his long-time electoral foe, to run the Ministry of Defense.
Shortly earlier than the New Year, Jokowi reshuffled this cupboard. It was one thing of a necessity, as two of the ministers he appointed – Edhy Prabowo and Juliari Batubara – had been arrested on corruption prices and wanted changing. Not surprisingly, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto was additionally swapped out as he had come beneath widespread criticism for his dealing with of COVID-19. But the actual headline-grabber was the appointment of Sandiaga Uno, Prabowo’s working mate in 2019, to go up the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.
This means everybody who ran for president or vice chairman in 2019 now holds some senior place within the authorities, even those who misplaced. This might be seen as a symptom of pure patronage politics and democratic erosion: what’s the purpose of elections if everybody results in the federal government anyway? But there’s a pretty shrewd political calculus at play right here as effectively, and it’s not so apparent that giving this portfolio to Sandiaga Uno is an unqualified occasion of political patronage.
For one, the Ministry of Tourism isn’t historically a high-profile portfolio just like the Ministry of Defense, Transportation, or Energy. Indeed, the organizational construction and mission of the Ministry has modified just about constantly from president to president, and even from cupboard to cupboard. In his first time period Jokowi deliberate to spin off the artistic financial system a part of the ministry so it might focus solely on tourism promotion. Now, as mysteriously because it disappeared, the artistic financial system element is again. So it’s not a secure portfolio that has a historical past of creating its leaders into political stars.
Secondly, the street forward for Sandiaga Uno in reviving Indonesia’s tourism business goes to be very fraught and monumentally difficult. It’s unclear when free and unfettered worldwide journey will return to Indonesia, and even as soon as the virus is beneath management and planes are flying once more the influence and extent of enterprise closures and labor disruption within the interim is at the moment unknown. When will individuals really feel comfy reserving holidays in Indonesia once more? We merely don’t understand how rapidly this stuff will snap again, and there’s a good likelihood the sector will get well extra slowly than optimistic projections are suggesting.
Sandiaga Uno is younger, charismatic and prone to play some necessary function within the 2024 elections. By bringing him into the cupboard and tasking him with main the restoration of Indonesia’s tourism sector, Jokowi is making a reasonably shrewd play. If profitable, he can tie a promising future political determine to his governing coalition. On the flip facet, he additionally has a handy fall man ought to the business fail to show round rapidly sufficient.
So far, Sandiaga has indicated he’ll double down on growing precedence locations corresponding to Mandalika and Labuan Bajo, that are considerably controversial. Resort developments in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the famed Komodo dragons, should stroll a high-quality line between business pursuits and environmental safety. Meanwhile, in Mandalika the development of a MotoGP circuit manufacturing facility has been delayed by land disputes. Even with no pandemic these initiatives could be tough to navigate, as there are a lot of competing pursuits to steadiness. They are nonetheless very a lot consistent with the Jokowi administration’s general technique for post-pandemic restoration: reducing via regulatory obstacles to lasso funding and capital inflows as the primary engines of development.
Whether it’s going to work or not stays to be seen, as does whether or not and the way Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry beneath Sandiaga will rebalance its efforts towards home tourism (the business’s solely lifeline for practically a 12 months now). It will likely be attention-grabbing to see how the brand new minister balances the home market and issues about sustainability and over-development in opposition to the investment-first imperatives coming from the highest echelons of the administration he has now yoked his fortunes to.
No matter the way you slice it, with worldwide tourism mainly re-starting from zero, juggling all of those plates gained’t be simple. But if the tourism sector springs again to life in 2021 beneath Sandiaga Uno’s management, he will likely be well-placed to champion this accomplishment in 2024 and place himself as a successor to Jokowi. And if the sector doesn’t flip round fairly so nimbly and if the precedence locations fail to bear fruit, from Jokowi’s perspective who higher to take the blame than your former electoral foe?