Personal allegiance may have been the main grounds for appointing the Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik as the new energy and mineral resources minister, despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s claim that “the right men in the right place” was his reshuffle policy.
Amid messy regulatory infrastructure in the oil, gas and mining sector, Jero’s appointment is likely to make things worse, industry stakeholders believe.
“Jero’s appointment is a reflection that the administration has no sense of crisis,” said mining consultant Priyo Pribadi of PT Kresna Inti Cipta on Wednesday.
“The problems in the sector are extremely complicated. What we need is someone who knows the sector very well,” said Priyo, also a former member of the Indonesian Mining Association (IMA).
Jero is one of Yudhoyono’s earliest supporters, and was a financier of the newly-formed Democratic Party in 2001.
His success in helping the party gain significant votes in Bali, his home and traditionally the base of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), in the 2004 and 2009 elections, earned him not only the admiration but also loyalty of both Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.
“[Jero’s] appointment was very political. The ministry is seen as a strategic place that should be managed by the ruling party,” said energy expert Pri Agung Rakhmanto of the ReforMiner Institute.
“The new minister has no track record in the energy and mineral-resources sector. We can only hope that his leadership will create a breakthrough in making and executing policies,” he said.
However, Jero seems to lack the intellectual ability to create such a breakthrough.
When he was culture and tourism minister, around 40 percent of the ministry’s promotional budget to lure foreign tourists was spent on local media outlets instead of advertising in the international media.
He also made a blunder when he forged a deal with the New7Wonders Foundation to promote Komodo Island. Jero scrapped the deal after realizing later that it would account for almost half of the ministry’s promotional expenditure.
“Deputy minister Widjajono Partowidagdo may be the only one we can expect to improve the sector,” said Pri Agung. Widjajono is a member of the National Energy Council (DEN) and Oil and Gas Production Improvement Team and a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology.
Golkar Party lawmaker Satya W. Yudha, a member of the House of Representatives’ Commission VII for energy and mining, argued that Jero should be given a chance.
“He’s relatively free from the cronyism of certain oil, gas and mining companies,” he said.
In response to the critics, Jero said late on Tuesday that he would need to learn a lot from friends and fellow ministers about the sophistication of the industries.
“I have friends in the sector that can teach me about the sector. So there shouldn’t be any doubt.”