Being a country’s finance minister may appear to be something of a poisoned chalice in the current economic environment, but there are still plenty of politicans doing sterling work in steering their countries through the aftermath of the global crisis. The Banker salutes the finest of these.

Agus Martowardojo

Finance minister of the Year Global and Asia-Pacific

Agus Martowardojo,finance minister of Indonesia

The past 12 months have been challenging for the world’s finance ministers, but Indonesia has been one of the few bright spots in the global economy and its gross domestic product growth is expected to continue at about 6% in 2012.

Aside from juggling the fiscal challenges of the domestic economy and creating an environment that is friendly to international investors, Agus Martowardojo has been notable for his managerial skills in bringing reforms to Indonesia’s finance ministry itself.

Mr Martowardojo took the helm at the ministry in May 2010 after Sri Mulyani Indrawati resigned to become managing director of the World Bank Group. Mr Martowardojo had big shoes to fill when he took on the role, but, like his predecessor, he has been something of a reformer in a political environment that has been plagued with corruption scandals.

When he took office, Mr Martowardojo vowed to continue with Ms Indrawati’s reforms and he has a reputation for not being afraid to stand up to those with vested interests. While this may have gained him political opponents, he was retained in the Indonesian president’s most recent cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Martowardojo joined the government as a career banker with no party political allegiance. He was formerly the CEO of Bank Mandiri, which, when he joined in 2005, was in difficulty with non-performing loan ratios of about 15%. During his time at Bank Mandiri he acquired a reputation as an effective leader and is credited with turning the bank around.

His professional experience at Bank Mandiri, as well as his CEO-level roles at other banks such as Bank Permata, has stood him in good stead to deal with the challenges of his role as finance minister.

The same skill-set that was used to reform Bank Mandiri is now being applied to transforming the oft-criticised inefficiencies of Indonesia’s government bureaucracy.

Mr Martowardojo is often described as a hard worker, and one observer comments that his work ethic has trickled down throughout the government department. He has also been credited with introducing working practices to the ministry that would seem more at home in a bank, such as a target-oriented culture where staff are rewarded on merit.

Reform of the government’s budget execution and financial planning has also been an issue for the finance minister, who is reported to have been tough on other government departments that do not stick to their budget.

The role of finance minister has also put Mr Martowardojo in the international spotlight. Born in the Netherlands, he is comfortable on the international stage and has been prominent in chairing the meetings of finance ministers as Indonesia was the chair of the Association of South-east Asian Nations in 2011.


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