Jokowi Replaces Indonesia Health Minister as Covid Deaths Spike

Indonesian President Joko Widodo replaced the country’s health chief as part of a cabinet revamp to bolster government efforts against Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, who heads the country’s task force for national economic recovery, was appointed as health minister to replace Terawan Agus Putranto, Widodo said in a speech Tuesday.

Before his appointment, Sadikin was a former chief executive of state lender PT Bank Mandiri and state mining company PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium. He was named deputy minister in the ministry for state-owned enterprises in October 2019.

Former health minister Putranto had faced criticism from civil-society groups regarding his handling of Indonesia’s Covid-19 response, initially downplaying the virus and struggling to increase testing and provide hospitals with equipment and staffing as infections rose.

Indonesia’s case load has topped 670,000, while record spikes in Covid-19 fatalities this month have brought the death total to more than 20,000. Southeast Asia’s largest economy is bracing for an annual contraction of as much as 2.2% this year as restrictions to slow the spread of the virus impede an economic recovery.

“This will raise questions whether the president no longer trusts bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health at all because they are slow in responding to the pandemic, thus requiring outsiders — a businessman, banker –to execute the president’s direction,” said Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara, an economist at the Jakarta-based Institute for Development of Economics and Finance.

The key ministries of finance and foreign affairs, held by Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Retno Marsudi respectively, were unchanged in the revamp.

Other appointments in the cabinet reshuffle included Indonesia’s ambassador to the U.S. Muhammad Lutfi, who was named trade minister, replacing Agus Suparmanto.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno will be tourism and creative economy minister, replacing Wishnutama Kusubandio. Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, who heads the youth wing of the world’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, will become religious affairs minister, replacing Fachrul Razi.

Surabaya City Mayor Tri Rismaharini will be social affairs minister and Deputy Defense Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono will be fisheries minister. They replace Juliari Batubara and Edhy Prabowo, respectively, who are under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption agency for bribery. Prabowo has pleaded guilty while Batubara has not commented other than committing to “follow the process.”

— With assistance by Rieka Rahadiana, Tassia Sipahutar, and Grace Sihombing

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