Mustafa ready for unpopular

JP/R. Berto Wedhatama

Mustafa Abubakar is fully aware that managing state businesses with about Rp 2,000 trillion (US$212 billion) worth of assets is a mammoth undertaking with a lot of pitfalls and temptations.

“This is a serious job,” he said recently pondering on the tasks ahead. The ministry is making a big effort to make state companies more profitable and transparent despite a previous record of losses and corruption, especially before the reform era.

“I have some principles in managing state enterprises—always be ready to make unpopular decision, while resisting pressures and temptations,” Mustafa said firmly.

Mustafa, appointed recently to replace Sofyan Djalil as state minister for state enterprises for the period 2009-2014, vowed to do better. But, Mustafa is humble enough to acknowledge that he has a lot to learn, considering his latest undertaking was to run the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) from 2007 until 2009.

Mustafa was born in 1949 into a poor family. He spent his  childhood in Meureudu Pidie, 140 kilometers to the southeast of Banda Aceh, capital of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

Friends and families said Mustafa was among the smarter kids in school and excelled in giving public speeches in front of a crowd. He was born to be a leader, they say.

His leadership skills evolved when he joined the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) in its fisheries faculty in the 70’s and later became the chairman of the student council. He even became the institute’s best student in 1975. He completed his bachelor degree in 1977.

Mustafa began his professional career as a consultant with the World Bank from 1979 until 1989. He worked extensively with Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bank Indonesia on agricultural development.

Professional work aside, Mustafa also engaged in networking. Mustafa, who married with Darliza Hamzah, was elected twice as  chairman of the Indonesia Consultant Organization (Inkindo) from 1993 to 1996 and 1996 to 2000.

He also won the trust of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and was chairman of its consultancy service unit.

In the late 1990s, Mustafa set his mark at the top government level by becoming the inspector general of the fisheries and maritime affairs ministry, until 2006.

His leadership performance later gained the trust of then newly elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who appointed Mustafa as acting governor of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, his home province, in 2005, temporarily replacing Abdullah Puteh who was facing indictment for corruption charges.

He led Aceh for two years, a province previously torn by civil unrest and then hit by the 2004 tsunami. Among his successes in Aceh were that he managed the first direct election for a provincial governor, which was also the first election of its type in the country.

After he relinquished his position as governor, Mustafa returned to Jakarta to his new job as head of Bulog. Mustafa is noted for his success in reforming Bulog to make it effective and transparent. Bulog managed to decrease its deficit from Rp 523 billion in 2006 to Rp 337 billion in 2007.

Mustafa has shone brighter with his appointment as a state minister. Some observers, however, warned that he may lack the political skills to deal with lawmakers on the issue of privatization of state firms. (naf)

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