Widodo to set cabinet in early October

JAKARTA — Indonesia's Joko Widodo will announce his cabinet team in early October as he steps up preparations to become the next leader of the world's third largest democracy, a senior adviser to the president-elect said.

All eyes are on Mr Widodo's choices to head the main economic ministries, who will inherit problems in Southeast Asia's biggest economy ranging from a widening current account deficit and cooling investment to the slowest growth since 2009.

But the most-pressing problem will be cutting big fuel subsidies, a politically sensitive issue that raises the spectre of protests within weeks of the new administration taking office.

"Subsidies are a top priority for us to solve," said Luhut Panjaitan, an adviser on the team handling Widodo's transition into office and a leading contender for the position of chief economics minister. "With a huge fuel subsidy how can you send a good signal to the markets?"

Mr Widodo narrowly won last month's election and is set to take office on Oct. 20. He is bound by law to appoint a cabinet within two weeks of his inauguration.

According to an economic adviser to Mr Widodo, those in the running to become chief economics minister, who aims to coordinate the work of different ministries, include Mr Panjaitan, Rini Soemarno, former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, central bank governor Agus Martowardojo and a former central bank governor, Darmin Nasution.

Mr Panjaitan, a retired four-star general-turned-coal baron, was an important supporter of Mr Widodo's presidential campaign. He was trade and industry minister under former president Abdurrahman Wahid, and a former ambassador to Singapore, and is seen as armed with considerable business and political credentials.

Ms Soemarno, a close aide of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and head of Mr Widodo's transition office, has kept a low profile since serving as trade and industry minister in Megawati's administration 10 years ago. Educated abroad, she won respect in business circles as head of Astra International, the country's largest automobile distributor. She told Reuters this month it was too early to comment on the possibility of taking a ministry job.

Ms Sri Mulyani won praise for her reformist approach as finance minister under Yudhoyono but resigned in 2010 amid political pressure. She is a managing director at the World Bank.

Mr Martowardojo and Mr Nasution both have technocratic backgrounds.

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