Prabowo's cabinet expansion plan raises budget concerns but move will not face hurdles, say analysts

President-elect Prabowo Subianto (left), alongside vice president-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka, delivers a speech in Jakarta on April 24, 2024, after the General Elections Commission (KPU) declared the pair the official winners of the 2024 presidential election. - Reuters

JAKARTA (Jakarta Post/ANN): As the House of Representatives moves swiftly to increase the legal limit on the number of executive ministers, analysts have warned that president-elect Prabowo Subianto’s plan to expand his cabinet could get in the way of efforts to fulfill his campaign promises.

Prabowo is reportedly considering a plan to expand the number of ministries from the current 34 to over 40, a proposal that his camp says is meant to ensure a more efficient government.

Pro-Prabowo political parties in the legislature began deliberations this week on revisions to the 2008 Ministry Law, including on a provision that limits the number of ministries to 34.

A version of the draft revision of the law, agreed upon by members of the House Legislation Body (Baleg) on Thursday, says the number of ministerial posts should be “determined in accordance with the needs of the sitting president” by taking into account effective governance.

Political analysts say Prabowo may not face any serious hurdles to amending the law, given the near-supermajority support his coalition is likely to have in the House.

Prabowo’s coalition, dubbed the Onward Indonesia Coalition (KIM), initially consisted of four parties: his own Gerindra Party, the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Democratic Party.

Two other parties, the NasDem Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB), have pledged support for the incoming government. Morning Brief Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.

But expanding the cabinet could increase the economic burden on the government and taxpayers, as the administration would have to pay for the new ministries out of state coffers.

Public policy lecturer Trubus Rahadiansyah of Trisakti University said a bigger cabinet could mean “more wasted public money”.

“The bigger government could also increase the chance of corruption, making it more rampant in the government,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Under the plan, some current ministries might be split into two different institutions, a move that could lead to overlapping responsibilities and programs, causing wastage.

“Prabowo should consider the efficacy of his government rather than [handing out] positions to his allies when making these decisions,”

Trubus continued, referring to concerns that the cabinet expansion plan seeks to allow Prabowo to reward more of his political backers with top offices.

Funding the new ministries would add extra demands on the state budget, which is already burdened by yearly payments of more than Rp 600 trillion (US$37.5 billion) to cover public employees’ paychecks and other bureaucratic expenses.

The figure is about fifth of last year’s Rp 3,061 trillion total state budget, said Bhima Yudhistira of the Center of Economic and Law Studies (CELIOS). More demands on the budget could “threaten the execution of Prabowo’s program in the future”, he added, such as his trademark free lunch initiative and a pledge to continue the mega infrastructure projects of his predecessor, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The free lunch programe was at the centre of his and vice-president-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka’s campaign for the February election.

Scheduled to run through 2029, the ambitious programme has been at the centre of public scrutiny as observers raise concerns that it could hurt the nation’s credit rating by piling pressure on the state budget.

Asked about the potential economic burden of a bigger cabinet, Herzaky Mahendra of the Prabowo-aligned Democrats claimed the president-elect would carefully weigh every aspect of forming an effective government.

“We want the next government to be more effective and optimal in carrying out its work. The main purpose is to serve the people and provide public services,” he told the Post.

Economist Drajad Wibowo, a senior campaign aide for Prabowo and chair of PAN’s council of experts, argued that the president-elect, who has the right to appoint his own ministers and determine how many ministries would be in his administration, would ensure his cabinet running effectively.

“A clean, effective and efficient government is Prabowo’s priority. It’s in his Asta Cita,” Drajad said, referring to a collection of Prabowo’s policy goals for his presidency. - Jakarta Post/ANN

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