Snapshots / March 2017

Ministers Back on Track

By Yanto Soegiarto

It was a rare scene to see State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno and Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan sitting together on a train ride on their way to inaugurate the ground-breaking of sub-sea pipeline and single-point mooring projects at the Balongan refinery in February, part of a bigger plan to upgrade the nation’s refineries.

Rini and Jonan seemed amicable, laughing and sharing jokes as if nothing had ever happened between them. It is not long since Rini was the prime backer of the high-speed train project linking Jakarta and Bandung while Jonan, then communications and transportation minister, opposed it on grounds that the project lacked feasibility and environmental impact assessments. The two were surely at odds.

The two confidantes of President Joko Widodo also became the center of attention with the sudden dismissal of Pertamina president director Dwi Soetjipto and his deputy Ahmad Bambang two weeks earlier. Acting president director Yenni Andayani and Rini’s aide Sahala Lumban Gaol were sitting just in front of Rini and Jonan.

Rini and Jonan would have known the reasons behind the discharge of Dwi and Ahmad and have a good idea about Dwi’s replacement – there will be no deputy president director position in the new line-up. Ministers are, after all, in pole position to recommend a candidate to the president as the next leader of Indonesia’s largest company. A decision is expected before Yenni completes her month-long posting in the top job on March 3.

Asked what they had talked about during the two-and-a-half hour trip to Indramayu, Jonan said he “entirely forgot.” Rini went to the restaurant car an hour before reaching Jatibarang to have coffee, giving journalists the chance to ask her who would be the new Pertamina boss. Her only comment: “You guys ask too straight-forward questions.”

The two senior officials revealed nothing except that the Rp1.79 trillion ($134.2 million) submarine pipeline and single-point mooring projects would be completed in 23 months. The pipeline has a diameter of 81 cm and will be 15.2 km in length. It will carry crude oil from tankers to the refinery while the single-point mooring has a capacity for ships up to 165,000 deadweight tons.

The projects are being built by a consortium involving PT Rekayasa Industri (Rekind) and other state-owned companies as partners, employing more than 600 people. According to Yenni, the projects are part of an overall refinery upgrading project that will increase total refining capacity from 125,000 barrels to 240,000 barrels a day, cutting back on imports of expensive refined products.

Arriving at the site, Jonan said there was no real need for two high-profile ministers to inaugurate the projects. “But it displays that the government is serious in its strong commitment to national energy resilience. I am here with Ibu Rini because the president asked us to service the needs of domestic consumption as soon as possible. Our presence here and the sub-sea pipeline project have united us and the cabinet,” Jonan said. Rini kept quiet, obviously deciding that it was best to let Jonan enjoy his moment in the spotlight.