Who is he?
Muhamad Chatib Basri has served as chairman of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board since June 2012. Prior to that, he was vice chairman of the National Economic Committee, a government think tank, from 2010-2012. He is a highly trained and superbly capable technocrat.
Chatib worked as special adviser to former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati from 2006 to 2010 and as deputy of minister of finance for the G-20 from 2006 to 2009. He has also consulted for the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and several development organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development. He serves on the Asia-Pacific Advisory Group of the International Monetary Fund.
Why is he in the news?
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appointed Chatib Basri as Indonesia’s new finance minister on May 20. His decision followed a decades-long tradition of Indonesian leaders naming well qualified, technically competent experts to lead the Ministry of Finance. That pattern had been briefly interrupted in April when Yudhoyono named his in-law, the high profile Hatta Rajasa, as acting finance minister after nominating then-finance minister Agus Martowardojo to head the central bank.
A pragmatic and entrepreneurial reformist, Chatib’s experience with international trade and macroeconomic policy is seen by investors as a needed boost to Indonesia’s economic portfolio. The country is grappling with slowing growth, a new and widening current account deficit, and costly fuel subsidies that sap funds needed for infrastructure projects to encourage long-term investment.
What can we expect from him?
Chatib’s appointment suggests Indonesia is shifting toward a more prudent fiscal policy. Despite his laser-like focus and passion for efficiency, he has very little time to make a difference ahead of presidential elections in 2014. As Investment Coordinating Board chairman, Chatib streamlined investment processes and grew foreign and domestic investment to a record $20 billion and $10 billion, respectively, despite declining exports and a weak global economy. He is now tasked with achieving the same success in guiding the government’s revised budget for 2013 through the House of Representatives and keeping Indonesia’s fiscal policy disciplined.