Indonesian President Joko Widodo's unexpected cabinet reshuffle this week is a signal he remains committed to his clarion call for growth, analysts say.
Widodo, widely known as "Jokowi", made six changes to his 34-member cabinet on Wednesday, surprising political watchers with the appointment of experienced technocrats to key economic positions.
Analysts had expected any reshuffle, implemented in response to stalling growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy, to be dominated by political appointees that would give the President an upper hand in parliament. Jokowi's coalition currently lacks a majority in parliament, which has circumscribed the new leader's ability to push through much-needed reform projects and steer away from vested political interests.
For one, he had filled his first cabinet nearly 10 months ago with mostly political allies from his ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and other political parties that backed his campaign, leaving analysts to describe the selection as a "cabinet of compromise."
Hence this week's reshuffle, which brings in individuals with strong experience in economics and bureaucracy, is a welcome change.
"It may not appear as a 'big bang' in nominal terms, but it is still a substantial 17 percent change in the composition of the government," Cynthia Kalasopatan, market economist at Mizuho Bank, said.
"The reshuffle targeted key economic positions... the mix of professional and political background was also maintained. The strong credentials of the new ministers are also positive," she added.
The announcement of the cabinet revamp days ahead of his inaugural State of the Nation Address on Friday was also an astute move by Jokowi, whose approval ratings are plummeting, political analysts said. According to a survey done by the Saiful Mujani Research and Consultant (SMRC) last month, public approval for the President had dropped to 40.7 percent, from around 70 percent when he took office last October.
"Cabinet shake-ups often create controversies and questions, so it seems that Widodo wanted to get this over with before the speech. This would allow his cabinet to leave political controversies behind and focus on the job after the national address," Philips Vermonte, head of department of politics and international relations at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said.
As of Friday morning, Jokowi was addressing the nation ahead of Indonesia's Independence Day celebrations on August 17.