Indonesian President sacks and replaces trade minister after palm oil export flip-flops

By Orowo Victoria Ojieh with agency report

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, sacking the trade minister and announcing a replacement following controversy over a series of policy reversals on palm oil exports.

Zulkifli Hasan, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and a former forestry minister, was sworn in as the country’s new trade minister.

His predecessor Muhammad Lutfi oversaw a flip-flop on policies to contain a surge in domestic cooking oil prices, which included a ban on palm oil shipments from the world’s biggest exporter.

The three-week export ban sent shockwaves through global markets and led to a series of arrests for alleged corruption before it was lifted on May 23.

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The president said Zulkifli’s “long track record” and “field experience” gave him confidence he would resolve the issues.

The new minister pledged after his appointment to “rapidly resolve issues on the availability and affordability of cooking oil in particular”.

Despite being the world’s biggest palm oil producer, Indonesia has been dealing with domestic shortages and sharp price increases for months.

The president, popularly known as Jokowi also announced changes to the agrarian and spatial planning ministry, appointing former armed forces chief, Hadi Tjahjanto, who he said will be tasked with resolving land disputes, particularly in relation to the proposed new capital of Nusantara in East Kalimantan.

The president also inaugurated three deputy ministers to the ministries of manpower, spatial planning and home affairs.

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